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Introduction ------- 1 


Lecture I. On the History and Progress of the Art - 56 

II. On Design - - - - 90 

III. On Design (continued) - - - -118 
IV. On Composition - - - - - 152 

V. On Chiaroscuro - - - - - 176 

VI. On Colouring ----- L>0.1 


Lecture I. On Design - 237 

II. On Invention 269 

III. On Chiaroscuro - - - - % - 289 

IV. On Colouring - - - - -313 


Introduction - - - - - - -337 

Lecture I. Ancient Art ----- 346 

II. Art of the Moderns - - - - 376 

III. Invention ----- 407 

IV. Invention (continued) - 435 





Lecture V. Composition. — Expression - 460 

VI. Chiaroscuro - 477 
VII. On Design - 490 

VIII. Colour. — Fresco Painting ~ - - 503 

IX. Colour. — Oil Painting - - - - 515 

X. The Method of fixing a Standard, and defining the 
Proportions of the Human Frame, with Direc- 
tions to the Student in copying the Life - 523 
XI. On the prevailing Method of treating the History 
of Painting, with Observations on the Picture of 
" The Last Supper," by Leonardo da Vinci - 532 
XII. On the present State of the Art, and the Causes 

which check its Progress - 550 





Some account of the general rise and progress 6f European 
academies of arts will be, perhaps, the most appropriate 
introduction to a scries of academic discourses : to this will 
be appended Blight biographical sketches of the authors, 
followed by a review of their distinctive characteristics of 
style, both as regards their subject matter and their mode 
of expression. 

It does not appear that the Greeks or Romans had any 
public or gratuitous academies* of the arts of design. There 
was at Sicyon a very celebrated private school, more cele- 
brated, indeed, than perhaps any public school of modern 
times has ever been.'f It was originally established by 
Eupompus, of Sicyon, about 100 b.c, but acquired its 
greatest renown under his scholar Pamphilus, of Amphipolis, 

* 'A/caSrj/ui'a. The term originated in the name of a grove or garden 
near Athens, which was so named from its founder and possessor Acade- 
mus s ** atque inter Silvas Acadeini qinerere verum. Hor. Ep. ii. 8, 
There was a very celebrated gymnasium in this garden ; and it was from 
this that the academic philosophers acquired their distinctive designation. 
Academia became, even in the time of the Unmans, an established name 

for a place of study. Cicero called a part of his villa at Tueculum 

Academia. However, we have here no further business with academies 
than as institutions of the arts of design, as schools of instruction, or 
assemblies of honour. f Pliny, fitff. Nat, xxxv. 36. 




who succeeded him. The celebrity of this school was so 
great, that through Pamphilus, says Pliny*, the art of 
drawing f became established as one of the necessary 
branches of a liberal education. We know little of the system 
of Pamphilus, but the course of study, according to Pliny, 
occupied ten years, and the fee of admission was an Attic 
talent J, a large sum. We may conceive, however, a good 
idea of its celebrity from the statement of Plutarch §, that 
Apelles entered it, not on account of what he might learn, 
but in order merely to obtain the reputation of having 
studied in the school of Sicyon. The only approximation to 
a parallel case in modern times is, perhaps, the school of 
Francesco Squarcione, at Padua, in the earlier half of the 
fifteenth century. Squarcione was apparently the first 
private individual who collected a museum of drawings and 
ancient works of art; and he made it for the express purpose 
for which the collections of our academies are now made — for 
the example and instruction of pupils. He owed his col- 
lection, which is said to have been the best of its time, en- 
tirely to his own exertions ; he visited many parts of Greece, 
and travelled over the whole of Italy, purchasing much, and 
making drawings of whatever else he thought of value. He 
was very affluent, and the judicious application of the ability 
of his scholars tended much to his affluence ; they executed 
many of his commissions. His scholars, at one time, amounted 
to 137, the largest number of artists, probably, ever brought 
together by one master : Andrea Mantegna, Marco Zoppo, 
and Jacopo Bellini were his pupils. || 

Academies are much older as assemblies of honour than as 
gratuitous schools of design ; but the first institutions of an 
academic description were entitled societies, and the earliest 
of them were simple guilds originally assembled from feel- 
ings of piety, and they included also decorative artists as 
well as painters as a part of their body. One of the most 
ancient of these societies, or guilds, was that of St. Sophia, 
of Venice (called a School — Scuola), which was established 
about the middle of the thirteenth century ; and both from 
its date and its title it probably originated with the Greek 

* Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxxv. 56. f See Fuseli's first lecture, note, 

$ £243 1 5s. according to Hussey : other computations make it less. 
§ Aratusy 12. Lanzi, Storia Pittorica. 



artists who migrated into the West of Europe, after the 
capture of Constantinople by the Venetians, in the begin- 
ning of that century, 1204 A. d. This society, or scuola, 
which still exists, but not as a society of painters (for these 
have separated from it), is distinguished from all the other 
early societies of painters by the name of its patron, St. 
Sophia ; which almost proves its Byzantine origin, as St. 
Sophia was the patron saint of the metropolitan church of 
Constantinople ; and St. Luke is, perhaps, without exception, 
the patron of all other similar societies of painters. There 
are, according to Zanetti *, statutes preserved in its archives, 
in the Scuola de' Dipintori, of Santa Sofia, of a date as early 
as 1290, in which still earlier statutes are referred to. The 
present scuola was built in 1532, from funds bequeathed for 
the purpose by Vincenzio Catena; and the painters con- 
tinued members of the society until 1682, when a distinct 
college of painters, or an academy more according to the 
modern system, was founded, chiefly through the exertions of 
Pietro Liberi, who was appointed its first priore, or pre- 
sident. This was, however, still not a school : it was first 
established as a school by a decree of the Venetian senate 
in 1724 ; and, by a similar decree, an academy in 1766. 
The first distribution of prizes took place in 1774; and in 
1782 it received new statutes as the Public Academy of 
Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture — Pubblica Veneta 
Accademia, &c. : its present title is Reale Accademia delle 
Belle Arti in Venezia. The collection of pictures in the 
academy is the largest and finest in Venice, and it possesses 
also a valuable collection of casts from the antique, and from 
the works of Canova, and other modern masters. The pre- 
sent academy building is what was formerly the Scuola della 
Carita, built by Palladio, but some modern additions have 
been made to it.f 

The old corporation of the painters of Siena, " Universita 
de' Dipintori," was probably as old an institution as the 
" Scuola de' Dipintori" of Venice. Della Valle has printed 
the statutes of this society of the year 1355 in his Letlere 
Sanesi; but he supposes the society may have been esta- 

* Delia Pittura Veneziana, &c. Venice, 1771. 

•f Guida per la Reale Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venezia. Fiorillo, 
Geschichte der Mahlerei, vol. ii. Gbttingen, 1801. 

B 2 



blished a century earlier. St. Luke was its patron ; and it 
was a fine of ten florins for any painter to absent himself 
from the annual festival on Saint Luke's day, when he was 
obliged to carry a wax torch in procession. The statute 
which orders this form and penalty for its omission is dated 
1367, and its heading explains the reason of the resolution : 
it is as follows — " In the name of the Almighty God, and 
of his blessed mother, the Holy Virgin Mary, and of all the 
saints of the court of Heaven, and especially of the blessed 
Luke, the Evangelist, chief and guide of all painters, who 
painted and drew the image of the Virgin Mary, mother of 
the Son of God." 

The origin of the fable here alluded to is obscure; it 
existed already in the time of John Damascenus, who lived 
in the eighth century : there are several pictures of the 
Virgin and Child still extant in Rome and elsewhere, which 
are attributed to, and vulgarly believed to have been painted 
by, St. Luke. D. M. Manni first ventured to show the 
absurdity of attributing these pictures to the Evangelist.*" 
As he erred, however, in assigning its origin to the con- 
founding with the saint an old Florentine painter of the 
name of Luca, called Santo, for his piety, his argument was 
weakened by Tiraboschi, who showed that the tradition was 
of a much earlier origin than this Florentine painter of the 
twelfth century. There was, however, a Greek hermit of a 
much earlier age, of the name of Lucas, who passed his time 
in painting pictures of the Virgin; and thus the error origi- 
nated in confounding Luke the Hermit with Luke the 

There was also a society of sculptors (Magistri Lapidum) 
at Siena, whose statutes were translated into the vulgar 
tongue as early as 1 292 : the original statutes may have been 
framed as early as 1233, and not later than 1270 or 1286, as 
they were made under a certain government of Siena, which 
originated in 1233, and ceased at one of the latter dates 
mentioned. There were sixty -one sculptors at Siena at this 

A society of painters was also established in Florence in 

* DelV errore che persiste di atiribuirsi le pitture al Santo Evangelhta, 
Florence, 1 766. j" See Lanzi, Storia Pittorica, &c. 



1350, under the title of Compagnia di San Luca ; and it 
existed without alteration until 1561, when an academy 
was founded, chiefly through the instrumentality of Vasari. 
Vasari gives a short account of the foundation of this 
society in the life of Jacopo di Casentino. It was founded, 
he says, by the artists of Florence — both those who followed 
the Greek manner, and those who adopted the new manner 
of Cimabue, in order that they might return thanks to God 
for the flourishing state of the art at that time, that they 
might meet together occasionally, and that they might be 
enabled to afford each other assistance in cases of need. 
Their first house of prayer was the principal chapel of the 
hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, given 'to them by the Porti- 
nari family. The original statutes were drawn up, or at 
least sanctioned, by the following painters : Lapo Gusci, 
Vanni Cinnuzzi, Corsino Buonaiuti, Pasquino Cenni, Segna 
d'Antignano, Bernardo Daddi, Jacopo di Casentino, Consi- 
glio Gherardi, and Domenico Pucci. Baldinucci * gives a 
fuller account of this society. Of the establishment and 
opening of the academy itself, in 1562, Vasari gives no 
account, but he has written a long article upon its forty-eight 
members. It was founded by the Grand Duke Cosmo I., 
who was also its patron and first president : the first vice- 
president was Vincenzio Borghini. The present extensive 
academy building, formerly the hospital of Saint Matthew, 
lo Spitale di San Matteo, was given to the academy, in 1784, 
by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. It contains an excel- 
lent collection of casts, and a very valuable gallery of 
pictures, especially of the earliest Florentine masters, and of 
their Greek instructors : it possesses also a collection of 
cartoons of celebrated masters. 

Rome also had its ancient Compagnia di San Luca, in 
which painters and artisans were associated together, and 
from which arose the now celebrated Accademia di San 
Luca. The old company possessed a small church of St. 
Luke upon the Esquiline hill, which was pulled down ; and 
Sixtus V., in 1588, gave them the church of Santa Martina, 
near the capitol, in its place, which they dedicated to 
St. Luke. 

Girolamo Muziano was, according to the account of Ba- 

* Notizie de* Professori del Dhcgno, &c, Dec. v. see. 2. 
b 3 


glione, the originator of the academy. He obtained a brief 
for its foundation from Pope Gregory XIII., but he died in 
1590, before the arrangements were complete, and the aca- 
demy was not finally established until after Federigo Zuc- 
chero returned from Spain, in 1595, in the pontificate of 
Sixtus V. Zucchero was then made president, or principe. 
The present academy edifice was built adjoining to the 
church by Urban VIII., after a design by Pietro da Cortona. 
It possesses a collection of portraits of the academicians, and 
some valuable pictures.* 

Milan also had its old guild of painters ; and some time 
before the year 1499 Leonardo da Vinci had established an 
academy there for the Duke Lodovico il Moro ; it may have 
been as early as 1485: it was, however, merely a school of 
instruction, and ceased to exist after some years. The first 
Milanese academy of the arts, as at present implied by the 
term, was founded by the Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, in 
imitation of, and a few years after the foundation of the 
academy of St. Luke at Rome, about 1609 ; and he furnished 
it, at his own cost, with collections of casts and paintings, 
and, among the latter, many specimens of the Dutch and 
Flemish schools, hitherto little known in Italy. After a 
lapse, however, of more than a century and a half, it was 
found necessary to re-establish the Milanese academy ; and 
accordingly in 1775 a new academy was founded by the 
Empress Maria Theresa. 

No school is more celebrated than the private academy of 
the Carracci at Bologna; and although Lodovico Carracci 
endeavoured to procure a papal brief from Clement VIIL, in 
1599, for the establishment of an academy, on the plan of 
the academy of St. Luke at Rome, it was not till 1712 
that a public academy of the arts was established at Bologna. 
Count Francesco Ghisiglieri established an academy, in 
which there was a living model school, in 1686, under the 
direction of Bolognini, Malvasia, E. Taruffi, and L. Pasinelli ; 
still it did not continue many years. Lodovico Carracci 
accomplished the separation of the painters from the artisans, 
with whom they were united in the common guild ; and had 

* There was a skull preserved in this academy, said to be that of 
Raphael; but in 1833 the tomb of Raphael, in the Pantheon, was opened, 
and the skeleton was found entire. 



he lived a few years longer, he probably would have accom- 
plished also the establishment of an academy. 

Clement XI. granted the brief {Breve) for the founda- 
tion of the Bolognese academy, whence its name Acca- 
demia Clementina * : its actual founder was the General 
Count Marsigli, and its first meetings were in his palace. 
It was dedicated to Santa Catarina Bigri ; the number of 
academicians was limited to forty, and Carlo Cignani was its 
first president. The academy building was originally the 
Palazzo Poggi, which was purchased by the senate, in 1712, 
for a National Institute, of which the academy of the arts is 
a part. It has a good collection of casts, which was presented 
by Benedict XIV., and a very valuable gallery of pictures, 
for which it is chiefly indebted to Pius VII. The present 
Pinacoteca, which contains them, is an addition to the old 
edifice, by Leandro Marconi, since the peace of 1815, by 
order of Pius VILf 

The academy of the Carracci was only a private school, and 
ceased at the death of Lodovico, in 1619 ; yet it was of such 
popularity and extent that all other private schools in 
Bologna suspended their functions of necessity, as they had 
no pupils. The Carracci called their school L' Accademia de' 
Desiderosi, the academy of the desirous, chose contentione 
perfectus, by competition perfected, for a motto ; and they 
and their scholars termed themselves glTncaminati, or, glTn- 
caminati Accademici, which means, literally, the started, or 
the pioneers ; in this case, to excellence. 

An academy of the arts was founded at Perugia in 1573, 
of which Orazio di Paris Alfani was the first director ; and it 
exists at present. There are also now academies in most of 
the principal cities of Italy ; but as assemblies of honour, 
except perhaps those of Naples, Turin, and Genoa, they can 
scarcely be considered by others than the inhabitants of their 
respective localities, that is, as many as may be constituted 
as such by the principles of their foundation. There are 
academies at Padua, Ferrara, Parma, Mantua, Modena, 
Vicenza, Verona, Bassano, and recently at Carrara ; all, 
except the last, established in the eighteenth century. 

* Zanotti, Storia del Accademia Clementina di Bologna, Bologna, 1 739. 
f Giordani, Pinacoteca della Pontificia Accademia di Belle Arti in 
Bologna. Bologna, 1835. 

b 4 



The academies of France are also numerous. Paris had 
its privileged company of St. Luke as early as 1390 or 1391, in 
which painters, sculptors, and various kinds of artisans were 
associated together. But as of such an ill-assorted body the 
painters and sculptors formed but a small minority, their 
position was anything but agreeable to them. Accordingly, 
the principal painters and sculptors of Paris endeavoured, in 
the time of Louis XIII., to establish a distinct society, which 
they accomplished in 1640, under the title of " Communaute 
des Maitres de l'Art de Peinture, Sculpture, et Gravure, de la 
Ville et Fauxbourgs de Paris ;" and in 1648 it was constituted, 
by Louis XIV., a royal academy of painting and sculpture, 
Le Brun being its first president. It at first had no fixed 
place of meeting ; but in 1656 some apartments in the Louvre 
were allotted to it, which were shortly afterwards exchanged 
for some apartments in the Palais Royal, where it continued 
to meet many years ; but finally it received " Le vieux 
Louvre," with a pension of four thousand francs per annum. 
The members of this academy commenced in 1673 a public 
triennial exhibition of their works, which continued, with 
occasional interruptions, for many years. They were stopped 
in 1793, when the academy was suspended by the National 
Convention, and a universal " Commune des Arts" was 
decreed in its place, which was, however, in its turn super- 
seded by a " Societe Populaire et Republicaine des Arts ;" 
and the academy was re-established by Napoleon, as a part 
of the Institute of France, in 1806.* 

Louis XIV. was also, by the advice of Colbert, the founder 
of the French Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Ar- 
chitecture at Rome, upon a plan furnished by Le Brun. 
C. Errard was nominated the first director in 1665, and he set 
out the year following for Rome, with twelve pupils. The 
pupils of this academy are all pensioners of the French 
government. The acquisition of the present spacious edifice, 
formerly the Villa Medici, was made by the French republic 
during the consulate of Napoleon, by the advice of M. Suvee, 
the then director. The academy possesses a very extensive 
collection of casts. 

* Felibien, Entretiens sur les Vies et sur les Ouvrages des plus excellens 
Peintres, &c. ; Organization et Reglements de V Institut des Sciences, Lettres, 
et Arts. Paris, 1*807. 



The newly-established Royal Academy proved such a 
formidable rival to the old Society of St. Luke, that the 
latter, after a gradual decline, was completely dissolved in 
1776, and the Royal Academy had the littleness to strike a 
medal in derision of its downfall, with the motto, " Liberte 
rendue aux Arts." Various artists, to the number of eighty, 
members of the old society, and others, not members of the 
academy, having no place for the public exhibition of their 
works, endeavoured, in the same year that the old society 
was dissolved, to establish a new society of painters, in oppo- 
sition to the exclusive Royal Academy ; but their success, 
whether from a want of unity or zeal, did not extend beyond 
the accomplishment of a single exhibition, in 1776. The 
establishment of the Royal Academy of London, which also 
originated in the dissatisfaction of certain artists with the 
incorporated society of artists of that time, involved a 
similar result, — the complete dissolution of the incorporated 
society was the consequence. Such is the fate of the rivals 
of royal favourites. 

France had many provincial academies ; some exclusively 
of the arts, others of the arts in connection with the sciences 
and literature, — Academie des Sciences, Belles Lettres, et 
Beaux Arts ; but few of them survived the storms of the 
revolution, and they showed but little activity in their best 
days. They were all immediately connected with the cen- 
tral institution of Paris. Louis XIV. established an academy 
of painting, sculpture, and architecture in Bordeaux, in 1676, 
but it did not long endure. Similar academies were esta- 
blished by Louis XV. at Toulouse, Marseilles, and many 
other large towns in France ; but few, if any, of those 
institutions exist at present. Many, however, have been 
replaced by new establishments. 

The Royal Academy of St. Ferdinand, at Madrid, " Real 
Academia de San Fernando," was established by Ferdinand 
VI., in 1752. The painters of Madrid had, more than a 
century before, associated themselves together, with the view 
of forming an academy, and in 1619 they petitioned 
Philip III. to that effect, but without success. Several sub- 
sequent efforts, during different reigns, were made, with 
more or less encouragement. Philip V. had expressed his 
wish that an academy should be established ; but its actual 



establishment was reserved for Ferdinand VI., and the insti- 
tution was named after that king. From the year 1758 the 
academy maintained six pensioners at Rome, — two painters, 
two sculptors, and two architects, who lived where, and 
studied as, they pleased, subject only to the surveillance of a 
director with regard to their mode of life. The academy 
possesses extensive and valuable collections of paintings and 
of casts. 

In 1768 the Royal Academy of San Carlos was established 
at Valencia, by Charles III., on a plan similar to that of St. 
Ferdinand, at Madrid, with which it was connected. The 
king also presented it with a collection of casts. The aca- 
demy was first established in 1753, by the brothers Josef and 
Ignacio Vergara, under the title of " Academia de Santa 
Barbara;" which name, as we have seen, was fifteen years 
afterwards changed for that of San Carlos, when it received 
the royal sanction of Charles III. 

Zaragoza also has its Royal Academy, " Real Academia de 
San Luis," for which it is indebted chiefly to the sculptor, 
Juan Ramirez. Though the last that was established in 
Spain, says Cean Bermudez*, it was the first to exercise its 
public functions. It commenced by an academy established 
in the house of Ramirez, in 1714, where it continued until 
his death, in 1740. In 1752, Don Vicente Pignatelli gave 
it some apartments in his house. In 1778 it was opened in 
the house of the Conde de Fuentes, still without the royal 
patronage ; but finally, after some other vicissitudes, it was 
permanently established as the Royal Academy of St. Lewis, 
in 1792, in one of the royal buildings of Zaragoza. It pos- 
sesses a good collection of casts, and other works of art. An 
academy was established at Barcelona in 1788. 

Besides these academies, there are institutes of the arts, 
or schools of design, in nearly all the provincial capitals in 
Spain ; and there is now an academy at Seville. A com- 
pany of painters, called the company of St. Luke, was esta- 
blished at Seville, by Ferdinand of Aragon. 

In Germany)* there are upwards of thirty academies, or 
public schools of design, some of which have arisen out of 

* Diccionario Historico de los mas Tlustres Profesores de las Bellas Artes 
en Espana, Madrid, 1800. f Fiorillo, Geschichte der Mahlerei, vol. ix 



the shades of older institutions. Augsburg is said to have 
had its guild of painters, with St. Luke for its patron, as 
early as the thirteenth century. The oldest German aca- 
demy of the arts is that of Nurnberg, which was established 
in 1662. Joachim Niitzel, a magistrate, was its first presi- 
dent, and Sandrart and Elias von Godeler were its first 

The Academy "Kunstakademie" of Augsburg, which arose 
out of the old guild of painters, was first established in 1712, 
but it does not appear to have had sufficient stamina to pre- 
serve its own existence, for in 1779 a new academy was 
established, of which J. E. Nilson was the director. In the 
year following, an institution, or school of design, for the 
improvement of manufactures, was connected with the aca- 
demy, by a private society, for the encouragement of the 
arts, " Privatgesellschaft zu ermunterung der Kunste." 
The object of this school was to instruct youths and grown- 
up persons occupied in mechanical trades and in manufac- 
tories, in the principles of ornamental design, for the im- 
provement of patterns of all descriptions. It was, in fact, a 
school, in intent and purpose, exactly similar to the schools 
recently, and sixty years later, established by the British 
government at Somerset House, and in various provincial 
towns. Meusel* has given an abstract of the regulations 
and objects of this school. The founders, or prime movers, 
of both institutions were the Chief J ustice Paul von Stetten, 
junior, and the Burgomaster von Karl zu Muhlbach. 

The Royal Academy of Munich, " Akademie der bildenden 
Kunste," was established by Maximilian Joseph I., in 1808. 
It had existed as a public school of design from the year 
1770, and was established by three artists, — the painter 
Christian Wink, the sculptor Roman Boos, and the stuccoer 
F. X. Feichtmayr. Peter von Langer, director of the 
previous drawing school, " Zeichenschule," was also first 
director of the new academy. His son, Robert von Langer, 
was the first professor of painting, and Conrad Eberhard 
was the first professor of sculpture. It possesses a good 
collection of casts, among which may be mentioned the so- 
called Achilles of Monte Cavallo, the celebrated gates of 
Lorenzo Ghiberti, the apostles of Peter Vischer, and the 

* Miscellaneen Artischen InJialts^ No. xi. p. 315. 



Phigaleian and Elgin marbles. It lias also a number of lay- 
Jigures for the study of draperies : they are also of great 
assistance to the student in testing his compositions in atti- 
tudes, in groups, and in the juxtaposition of colours in 

The Royal Academy of the Arts of Berlin was established 
in 1699, by Frederic L, under the direction of Andreas 
Schliiters, upon the principle of the academies of Rome and 
Paris, which are assemblies of honour as well as schools. 
Its founder, however, died in 1713 ; and from the purely 
military taste of his successor, Frederic William I., the 
academy was soon very little short of being dead too. This 
king not only suspended the annual grant bestowed upon 
the academy by Frederic I., but even demanded a rent for 
the apartments given to it by that king. This demand, 
however, he did not persist in. In 1743, the third year of 
Frederic the Great, the academy building, with all its con- 
tents, was destroyed by fire. In 1745 it was placed in a 
new building, which was also partly occupied by the Aca- 
demy of Sciences, but it was totally without apparatus ; and 
the academy continued in this neglected and very inefficient 
state until 1786, when the Baron von Heinitz was made 
curator, a few months before the death of Frederick the 

Baron Heinitz procured the academy a new apparatus of 
drawings, casts, books, &c, and reformed its statutes ; and 
from that time to the present it has steadily progressed in 
reputation and in efficiency. The present Akademie- 
Gebaude was enlarged in 1835, and belongs in part to the 
Academy of Sciences. The distinguished and venerable 
scuptor, J. G. Schadow, is still (1847) director of this academy. 
Provincial schools of design, " Kunstschulen," have been 
established at Halle, Konigsberg, Breslau, Magdeburg, 
Dantzig, and other places ; and the academy sends pensioners 
to Rome. 

An academy was established at Diisseldorf, in 1767, by the 
Elector Carl Theodor, and was located in the building 
erected by the Elector Johann Wilhelm for a picture-gal- 
lery, in 1710. Its first director was J. L. Krahe ; the 
present director is F. W. von Schadow, the son of the 
director of the academy of Berlin. 



There is no academy at Frankfort ; but the place of one 
is admirably supplied by the Stadel Institution of the Arts, 
" Stadel'sche Kunstinstitut," which is an academy, and an 
excellent one in everything but the name, except that it is 
not an assembly of honour. 

This institution was opened in 1828. Its first director 
was Philip Veit, who resigned his office in 1843, and the 
present director is Johanu D. Passavant, the author of the 
well-known work Rafael von Urbino und sein Vater Gio- 
vanni Santi. Leipzig, 1839. The institution was founded 
by a banker of Frankfort, Johann Friedrich Stadel, who, in 
1815, bequeathed, for the purpose, his extensive and valu- 
able collection of works of art, and a million florins to main- 
tain it, and constantly extend its sphere of usefulness ; and, 
though the foundation of a private individual, it is both 
national gallery, or museum, and academy, and yields but 
little in either respect to the most celebrated kingly institu- 
tions of the kind in Europe, even though fostered by gene- 
rations of kings. The collection at Stadel's death, in 1818, 
consisted of 5000 original drawings ; 375 oil paintings of the 
German, Dutch, Flemish, French, and Italian schools ; 
22,000 engravings ; a collection of casts and bronzes ; carv- 
ings in wood and ivory ; and a choice library on the arts. 
It is continually being added to, and possesses already some 
of the finest works of the modern German school of 

The Academy of Painting of Vienna was founded by 
Joseph I., in 1705, and its first president was the Baron von 
Strudel. It was improved by Charles VI., in 1726 ; but 
was first created an academy of the arts of design by the 
Empress Maria Theresa, who united various institutions 
into one, under the title " Akademie der bildenden Kiinste." 
The present Imperial and Poyal Academy, however, was 
established by Francis II., in 1800, when new statutes were 
drawn up for it. Fiorillo has inserted a copy of them in 
his Geschichte der zeichnenden Kiinste in Deutschland und 
den vereinigten Neiderlanden.\ The official head of this 
academy is entitled Curator, and the office cannot be held 

* Stark, Das Stadelsche Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main, Frank. 
1819 ; Fiissli, Kunstwerhe am Ehein, Zurich, 1843. 
f Geschichte der Mahlerei, vol. ix. 



by an artist, but must be filled by some minister or high 
officer of state; nor can, apparently, from the statute, the 
Prases, or president, be an artist, but must be chosen by the 
council, which again need not necessarily be all artists, from 
amateurs of the arts, and men skilled in business, — die kunste 
liebende und in der Geschaftsleitung erfahrene manner. 
Such regulations in a free country cannot but appear dero- 
gatory, though in Austria they may not be so considered ; 
yet it appears to amount to an official avowal that artists are 
incapable of presiding at their own councils. 

The academy of Dresden was established by Augustus II., 
king of Poland, in 1705. In 1775 an academy was established 
by the Landgraf Frederic II., at Cassel. Several academies 
which were established by the minor princes in Germany in 
places utterly inadequate to the support of such institutions, 
from the want not only of funds, but even of masters and 
scholars, have long ceased to exist. 

The following are the principal Dutch and Flemish 
academies, most of which arose out of incorporated societies 
of artists, which also had originated in the still earlier guilds 
of St. Luke, — " Sankt Lukas gilde." The painters and 
sculptors of Amsterdam were incorporated into a " Broeder- 
schap der Schilderkonst," in 1654, by which an academy was 
established, under the name of " Teken Akademie te Ams- 
terdam." An incorporated society of artists was established 
at the Hague, in 1656, "Haegsche Kunstschilders-Broeder- 
schap," and an academy in 1682. An academy was esta- 
blished at Antwerp, in 1510, which was exalted into a royal 
academy in 1663, by Philip IV. of Spain. The painters' 
guild of Antwerp was of very early date ; John Van Eyck 
was a member of it. An academy was established at Bruges 
in 1720, and another at Brussels in 1770; there is also one 
at Ghent. Academies were established at Stockholm in 
1733, Copenhagen in 1754, and St. Petersburg in 1765, 
by Catherine II., which is remarkable for its comprehensive- 
ness : the empress endowed it with a considerable revenue. 

Of the establishment of academies of the arts in Great 
Britain, we may speak somewhat more at length. 

The earliest institution of a public character, a part of the 
plan of which was instruction in the arts of design, was the 
Museum Minerva?, established by Charles I., in 1635, the 



eleventh year of bis reign, in the house of its first regent, 
Sir Francis Kingston, in Covent Garden. Walpole gives a 
slight account of it in the Anecdotes of Painting, in the 
notice of Sir Balthazar Gerbier. The patent of its erection 
is still extant in the office of the Rolls ; and the rules, orders, 
and plan of the establishment, were printed in 1636, to which 
is prefixed a coat of arms granted to the regent and profes- 
sors of the academy, in 1635. It gave instruction in the 
arts, sciences, and languages ; in fortification, and even in 
riding : but none except such as could prove themselves to be 
gentlemen (that is in position) were admitted to study in 
it ; in imitation, probably, of the exclusive law in force among 
the ancient Greeks, after the time of Pamphilus, of Amphi- 
polis, who established the famous school of Sicyon, which 
was, that none but the free born, or what is equivalent to it, 
the noble, should be allowed to practise the arts of design in 
Greece. As might be expected, the Museum Minervae did 
not survive the revolution. Previous to its establishment, 
says Walpole, a committee had been appointed in the House 
of Lords, of which the Duke of Buckingham was a member, 
for taking into consideration the state of the public schools, 
and method of education. What progress it made is not 
known ; but the Museum Miner vae, for gentlemen, was pro- 
bably a part of its fruits ; and with such a specimen of its 
liberality in the education of the public, we have no occasion 
to regret the suspension of the functions of this committee. 

Sir Balthazar Gerbier established an academy of his own, 
in 1648, upon similar principles, at Bethnal Green, which he 
called " The Academy for Foreign Languages and all Noble 
Sciences and Exercises." 

Walpole mentions, also, an Academy of Painters, of which 
Sir Godfrey Kneller was the head, and at which Vertue, the 
engraver, studied in 1711. 

In 1724 another academy was opened in Covent Garden, 
by Sir James Thornhill, which, however, did not rise above 
the rank of a private establishment. Sir James had before 
attempted, through Lord Halifax, to obtain the foundation 
of a royal academy of painting, &c, but in vain. He had 
even designed a plan, and made an estimate of the expenses 
of a building suited for the purpose, and containing also 



apartments for the professors. His estimate amounted to 

In the year 1758 the Duke of Richmond opened a gallery 
of casts from the antique, in Whitehall, forming an academy, 
or gratuitous school of design for young artists, and he esta- 
blished premiums for the best design. This school was 
under the management of Cipriani for drawing, and Wilton 
for sculpture or modelling ; but, like its predecessors, its 
existence was of short duration, and its ultimate effect was 
in proportion, though probably to many young artists indi- 
vidually it was of considerable benefit. An advertisement 
notifying the opening of this gallery " for the use of those 
who study painting, sculpture, and engraving," appeared in 
the Chronicle of February 25th, 1758. Youths under the 
age of twelve were not admitted — a proper restriction ; but 
the age of fifteen would perhaps have been better, for to the 
practice of schooling children into the professional use of the 
pencil, when they are scarcely strong enough to hold it 
iirmly — to teach them to draw sometimes before they have 
well learnt to read — may be attributed the too frequent 
general incapacity of the mature artist in after-life. Shortly, 
however, after the opening of this gallery an impudent pla- 
card, pasted upon the door, forced the duke to close it again. 
The cause of the placard was the duke's omitting to award 
the promised premiums. It was the time of the third Sile- 
sian or seven years' war, and he was called away suddenly to 
join his regiment on the continent, and in his absence the 
premiums were not given. When he returned, he found 
a sarcastic placard, in his own name, upon the door of his 
gallery, apologising for his poverty, and expressing his 
sorrow for having promised rewards which he could not pay. 
He immediately closed the gallery : he, however, opened it 
again after a little time, and placed it under the superintend- 
ence of the newly-incorporated society of artists, at the 
request of that society ; but it was gradually less frequently 
attended, until it was finally wholly superseded by the 
foundation of the Iloyal Academy in 1768. It remained 
open, however, some years after that event ; for those who 
chose to attend it, and amongst these was Edwards, the 
author of the " Anecdotes of Painting" in continuation to 
Walpole's compilation from the collections of Yertue. 



Edwards speaks of a " Life School, " or living model aca- 
demy, which was established in the house of a painter of the 
name of Peter Hyde, in Greyhound Court, Arundel Street, 
under the direction of Mr. Moser, afterwards the first keeper 
of the Royal Academy. In about the year 1739, it was 
removed to a more commodious house in Peter's Court, 
St. Martin's Lane, where it continued until 1767, when it was 
removed to Pall Mall. Hogarth is said to have studied in 
this school. In 1753 the artists connected with it — they 
constituted the great body of the artists of the metropolis — 
called a general meeting, for the purpose of establishing an 
academy, by a printed circular, of which the following is a 
copy : — 

u Academy of Painting, Sculpture, &c, in St. Martin's 
Lane, Tuesday, Oct. 23. 1753. 

< There is a scheme set on foot for erecting a public aca- 
demy for the improvement of the arts of painting, sculpture, 
and architecture ; and as it is thought necessary to have a 
certain number of professors, with proper authority, in order 
to the making regulations, taking in subscriptions, erecting 
a building, instructing the students, and concerting all such 
measures as shall be afterwards thought necessary, your 
company is desired at the Turk's Head, in Greek Street, 
Soho, on Thursday, the 13th of November, at five in the 
evening precisely, to proceed to the election of thirteen paint- 
ers, three sculptors, one chaser, two engravers, and two 
architects — in all twenty-four — for the purposes aforesaid. 

" Francis Milner Newton, 

" Secretary. 

"P. S. — Please to bring the enclosed list, marked with a 
cross before the names, of thirteen painters, three sculptors, 
one chaser, two engravers, and two architects, as shall appear 
to you the most able artists in their several professions, and 
in all other respects the most proper for conducting this 
design. If you cannot attend, it is expected that you will 
send your list, sealed and enclosed in a cover, directed to me 
at the Turk's head, in Greek Street, Soho, and that you will 
write your name on the cover, without which no regard will 
be paid to it. The list, in that case, will be immediately taken 
out of the cover, and mixed with the other lists, so that it 



shall not be known from whom it came; all imaginable 
methods being concerted for carrying on this election without 
any favour or partiality. 

" If you know of any artist of sufficient merit to be elected 
as a professor, and who has been overlooked in drawing out 
the enclosed list, be pleased to write his name, according to 
his place in the alphabet, with a cross before it." 

Here we have a complete scheme of an academy of the 
arts, and drawn up with the greatest liberality of intention. 
Twenty-four was a large numerical proportion of the artists 
of that time. The effort, however, completely failed in an 
immediate result, though it was the first of the series of 
efforts which ended in the foundation of the present Royal 
Academy. In 1765 the same society of artists succeeded in 
obtaining a charter as a corporate body, as " The Society of 
Artists of Great Britain," and St. Luke's day was fixed upon 
as the day of annual meeting for the election of officers. Mr. 
Lambert was the first president. The organization of this 
body, however, was so unsound that it was nearly dissolved 
by internal factions three years after its establishment. To 
discover the real fault or faults of its constitution would be a 
difficult investigation ; but its great defect was generally 
supposed to be its want of a proper limitation of the number 
of its members. The original founders and official directors 
of the institution soon became a small minority; and the first 
acts which gave offence to them were the substitution of Mr. 
Kirby, as president, in the place of Mr. Hayman, who had 
succeeded Mr. Lambert; and the removal of the original 
secretary, Mr. Newton. These acts, and others equally disa- 
greeable to the directors, were the consequence of a special 
general meeting of the society, convened by seven members, 
who circulated a printed letter, October 8th, 1768, which has 
been preserved by Edwards. It was as follows : — 
" Sir, 

" At the last General Quarterly Meeting of the Society of 
Artists a law was proposed, and carried by a great majority, 
to secure the election of eight new directors annually. This 
proposition for a law, being referred to the directors, has 
since been returned with their absolute refusal, notwithstand- 
ing the Attorney General's opinion, that the society has full 



power, by tlieir charter, to make such law, and to which opi- 
nion the directors had previously determined to abide ; and, 
V8 a further aggravation, it must be observed, that the direct- 
ors were not satisfied w T ith this use of their power, but added 
to it most reproachful reflections on the fellows of the 

u This is, therefore, to desire your attendance on Thursday 
next, at six o'clock, at the Castle Tavern, Henrietta Street, 
Covent Garden, to meet the rest of the fellows of the society, 
in order to consider of the proper persons to serve as direct- 
ors for the year ensuing, whereby it is hoped that such per- 
sons will be named who will consider the general interests of 
the society." 

The consequences of this meeting, on the next St. Luke's 
day, were the changes already mentioned, and the exclusion 
of many of the original directors. Shortly after these 
changes, eight other of the original directors resigned their 
offices, and, with many others, seceded from the society. 
They gave notice of their resignation in the following letter 
to Mr. Kirby, the president, dated November 10th of the 
same year : — 

" Sir, 

" Though we had the strongest objections to the unwar- 
rantable manner in which most of the present directors of 
the society were elected, yet our affection for the community 
was such, that we had, in spite of every motive to the con- 
trary, resolved to keep possession of our directorships. But 
finding the majority of the present directors bent upon mea- 
sures which we think repugnant to our charter, and tending 
to the destruction of the society, w T e judge it no longer safe 
to keep possession of our employments ; therefore do hereby 
resign them, that no part of the blame, which will naturally 
follow the measures now pursuing, may, in any shape, be laid 
upon us. 

"From the motions and insinuations of the last meeting, 
we clearly see what plan is to be pursued ; and we likewise 
clearly perceive that, however odious and hurtful such a plan 
may be, we shall find it utterly impossible to prevent it." 

Here follows a part which has no reference to the subject 
as a public question, the writers merely expressing their 




personal respect for Mr. Kirby himself, and some other re- 
maining directors of the society. The letter was signed by 
Joseph Wilton, Edward Penny, Richard Wilson, Benjamin 
West, William Chambers, G. M. Moser, Paul Sandby, and 
F. M. Newton. 

In this letter much is left to be inferred, but little is stated 
in justification of the secession. It speaks of the unwarrant- 
able manner in which the majority of the then directors were 
elected, yet the election must have been constitutional, if 
valid. It is evident that the institutors of the society disco- 
vered, when it was too late, that they had founded a very 
different society from what they had wished or intended to 
establish ; and it cannot be disguised, that the most material 
cause of the secession was the loss of supremacy. What 
followed caused a great deal of animosity among those who 
continued with the society, and led the whole proceeding of 
the seceders to be termed afterwards a base intrigue ; and, 
in evidence before the select committee of the House of 
Commons, in 1836, the credit of it was given to Sir Joshua 
Reynolds ; but it will be seen, by some facts which shall be 
presently stated, that if there were an intrigue, which is not 
apparent, Sir J oshua Reynolds had, at all events, no hand in 
it whatever. The case is plainly this : — Certain artists 
seceded from a society which was not agreeable to them, and 
they were men of sufficient influence to establish a society 
under a name, and in a form, which was exactly in accord- 
ance with their desires, namely, the Royal Academy, and 
they accomplished this without the knowledge of those from 
whom they separated. This their opponents have exagge- 
rated into an intrigue ; yet, so far, they certainly did nothing 
but what was perfectly justifiable, although, in the regulation 
of the detail of the establishment, they laid themselves open 
to the charges of harbouring personal animosity, and even of 
illiberality. The pointed exclusion of engravers from the 
privileges of the institution was an unprovoked indignity to an 
entire class of artists, equally as useful and meritorious, as a 
body, as any other class. Sir Robert Strange, in a pamphlet 
published in 1775, entitled An Enquiry into the Rise and 
Establishment of the Royal Academy, assigns a reason for 
the exclusion, if true, highly discreditable to those respon- 
sible for its adoption. He says — " The dissension in the 



Society of Artists having reached its height, and the remnant 
of the old directors, whose attempts to obtain an arbitrary 
and irresponsible power had occasioned the dissension, 
having, by a vigorous effort on the part of the general body 
of members, become a minority, now, with the help of Mr. 
Dalton" (librarian to George III., to whom Strange was 
particularly obnoxious), " betook themselves to the king, and 
proposed an enlargement of the plan of the Royal Academy " 
(alluding to a scheme of Mr. Dalton's of the preceding year), 
" so that it might only serve their views of triumph over the 
society from which they had seceded." . . . "In model- 
ling the plan of this academy," he continues, "I had the 
honour, as I was informed, to be particularly remembered by 
them. At length, the more effectually to prevent every chance 
that I might have of partaking the honours they were shar- 
ing, it was proposed that nothing less than a total exclusion 
of engravers should take place." ..." West," continues 
Sir Robert, "warmly opposed the motion : he entered into 
the merits of the profession in its various consequences ; he 
showed the advantages which painting reaps from it, as well 
as the benefits which might result from it to this country as 
a commercial nation. But his endeavours were to no pur- 
pose, and the measure was carried against him." 

In this inquiry Sir Robert Strange has put the name of 
Mr. Dalton more prominently than the facts warrant, which 
is evident from the testimony of Edwards and Northcote, 
who do not even mention his name. The following is North- 
cote's account, in his Life of Reynolds, from which it is 
clear that Sir Joshua had no share in the imputed intrigue 
by which the foundation of the academy was accomplished : — 
" The four persons who first planned the institution were 
Sir William Chambers, Mr. West, Mr. Cotes, and Mr.Moser: 
these together carried on the project with such profound 
secrecy, that not one of the incorporated society had the least 
knowledge or idea of its having been seriously thought of; 
insomuch, that even Mr. Kirby, their president, had just at 
that time assured them, from his chair of office, that his 
majesty intended to patronise them, and also to visit their 
exhibition. In the mean time the four above-named persons, 
with the concurrence of some others of their party, proceeded 
in their plan. They also made out a list of their officers, as 

c 3 



well as of those who were to compose the body, containing 
about thirty names, and had inserted that of Reynolds 
amongst the rest. This list was to be delivered to the king, 
for his approbation and signature ; however, Mr. Reynolds 
was still unwilling to join with either party, which resolution 
he made known to Sir William Chambers, in consequence of 
which Mr. Penny was sent to persuade him to join their 
party ; but that proved in vain. Penny then applied to Mr. 
West, and begged him to intercede with Reynolds, adding 
that he was the only person who could influence him to con- 
sent. Mr. West accordingly called on Mr. Reynolds on the 
same evening, on which the whole party had a meeting, about 
thirty in number, at Mr. Wilton's house, expecting the result 
of Mr. West's negotiation, as the king had appointed the fol- 
lowing morning to receive their plan, with the nomination 
of their officers. Mr. West remained upwards of two hours, 
endeavouring to persuade Reynolds, and at last prevailed so 
far, that he ordered his coach, and went with Mr. West to 
meet the party, and immediately on his entering the room, 
they, with one voice, hailed him as their president. He 
seemed to be very much affected by the compliment, and 
returned them his thanks for the high mark of their appro- 
bation ; but declined the honour till such time as he had con- 
sulted with his friends, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Edmund Burke. 
This demur greatly disappointed the company, as they were 
expected to be with the king on the very next morning, by 
appointment; but Messrs. West and Cotes avoided going to 
the king next day, as they could not present him with a 
complete list of their officers, for the want of a president ; 
and it was not till a fortnight after that Reynolds gave his con- 
sent, although Mr. West had called on him in the mean time 
to know his determination, when Reynolds frankly told him 
that he had been informed, from the very best authority, that 
their scheme would come to nothing, as it was wholly a delu- 
sion. And when Mr. West testified his astonishment at such 
an idea, Mr. Reynolds freely confessed to him that he had 
the intelligence from Mr. Kirby himself, who assured him 
that the king had declared his intention of giving his counte- 
nance and protection to the incorporated Society of Artists, 
and also to visit their annual exhibition ; to which Mr. Kirby 



added that, in consequence, he had himself declared the same 
to the society from the president's chair." 

This account, which was published in West's life- time, in 
its unlaboured simplicity, carries the stamp of truth with it, 
and shows that the prevailing notion that Sir Joshua Rey- 
nolds was the prime mover in the foundation of the academy 
is a decided error. Even Sir M. A. Shee, in his evidence 
(1916) before the select committee of the House of Com- 
mons, in 1836, treats the aspersion upon the motives of the 
originators of the academy as a calumniation of Sir Joshua's 
character, though no names were mentioned ; and Mr. Hay- 
don, the author of the offensive passage (1056), at his second 
examination (2183), virtually acknowledges that Sir Joshua 
Reynolds was alluded to in his accusation ; and he affirms, at 
the same time, that Sir Joshua was a complete intriguer. 
As the evidence (1056) referred to is an aggregate of the 
various charges brought against the academy, it may be 
quoted in this place. u The Royal Academy," says Mr. 
Haydon, u originated in the basest intrigue : there was a 
chartered body of artists, out of which, twenty-four directors 
were annually elected by the constituency ; then these 
directors, having got the sweets of power once, naturally, as 
all men do, wished to keep it, and they wanted to be elected 
again : but the feelings of the constituency, who knew right 
from wrong, refused to consent to it, and sixteen of these 
directors were voted out. These men had the ear of Dalton, 
the king's librarian, and they persuaded Dalton to persuade 
George the Third to found a Royal Academy, which George 
the Third consented to do, and thus the other eight directors 
that were left seceded and joined the sixteen, giving them- 
selves a majority of four, because they limited the number 
to forty in the new academy. All the exclusive laws were thus 
carried, which the artists complain of, and have been the cause 
of the whole of the bad passions, intrigue, injustice, cabal, heat, 
and turmoil in English art, ever since."* 

Sir Joshua Reynolds did not even sign the petition to 
George III. for the formation of the academy, which 
was drawn up and presented by Mr. (afterwards Sir Wil- 
liam) Chambers, yet that memorial bore the signatures of 

* Report: Arts and Manufactures, Part II. 1836. Minutes of Evi- 
dence before Select Committee on Arts and Principles of Design, 

c 4 



twenty-two artists. " Its purport," says Mr. Howard, 
" was to show the probability that with his majesty's royal 
sanction and encouragement, and by means of an annual 
exhibition of their works, they would soon be able to raise 
sufficient funds for the support of a gratuitous national 
school of art. The memorial stated, 6 The two principal 
objects which we have in view are the establishing a well- 
regulated school or academy of design, and an annual ex- 
hibition open to all artists of distinguished merit ; we ap- 
prehending that the profits arising from the last of these 
institutions will fully answer all the expenses of the first ; 
we even flatter ourselves that they will be more than 
necessary for that purpose, and that we shall be enabled 
annually to distribute somewhat in useful charities.' The 
proposal was graciously received. The plan of a constitu- 
tion was drawn up by Mr. Chambers, and laid before the 
king, which he approved, and signed on the 10th of Decem- 
ber, 1768. Thus was founded 'The Royal Academy of 
Arts in London, for the purpose of cultivating and improv- 
ing the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture.' " f 

The artists who signed this memorial were : Benjamin 
West, Francesco Zuccarelli, Nathaniel Dance, Richard Wilson, 
George Michael Moser, Samuel Wale, J. Baptist Cipriani. 
Jeremiah Meyer, Angelica Kaufmann, Charles Catton, 
Francesco Bartolozzi, Francis Cotes, Edward Penny, George 
Barrett, Paul Sandby, Richard Yeo, Mary Moser, Agostino 
Carlini, William Chambers, Joseph Wilton, Francis Milner 
Newton, and Francis Hayman. 

These, with J ohn Baker, Mason Chamberlin, John G wynn, 
Thomas Gainsborough, Dominick Serres, Peter Toms, 
Nathaniel Hone, Joshua Reynolds, John Richards, Thomas 
Sandby, George Dance, J... Tyler, William Hoare of Bath, 
and Johan ZoSani, composed the original thirty-six acade- 
micians. The number forty was not completed till 1772, 
by the addition of Edward Burch, Richard Cosway, Joseph 
Nollekens, and J ames Barry. Their first meeting was held 
on the 14th of December, when the following officers were 
elected, viz : J. Reynolds, President; G. M. Moser, Keeper ; 
F. M. Newton, Secretary ; E. Penny, Professor of Painting ; 
T. Sandby, Professor of Architecture ; S. Wale, Professor 
of Perspective; and Dr. William Hunter, Professor of 
* Penny Cyclopedia ; article, Royal Academy. 



Anatomy. The king appointed William Chambers Trea- 
surer, and R. Wilson Librarian. 

Though this list contains probably the majority of the 
able artists of that day, and certainly the most vigorous por- 
tion of them, still we miss the names of several men of 
great reputation at the time. For instance : Allan Ramsay, 
principal painter to the king, Hudson, the portrait painter, 
Samuel Scott, the marine painter, and Romney, besides 
others. The proportion of foreigners is also very large ; the 
only two ladies named in the list, Angelica Kaufmann and 
Mary Moser (afterwards Mrs. Lloyd), were both Swiss. 
The absence of Romney's name from the list was probably 
owing to his own reserved habits, for he did not associate 
with any body of artists. The academy was opened on the 
first or second of January, in 1769, upon which occasion Sir 
Joshua Reynolds read his first discourse : as president of the 
academy he received the honour of knighthood from the 
king, and all successive presidents have received the same 
honour, except Benjamin West, who declined it. 

To return to the incorporated society. This body, or, 
more correctly, what was left of it, which, however, still 
amounted to upwards of a hundred members, was greatly 
exasperated at the success of the seceders, and it endeavoured 
to establish a second academy, and the members continued 
their efforts for several years, without, however, accomplish- 
ing their purpose. They had solicited the king's permission, 
through their president, Mr. Kirby, to establish an academy, 
which was granted them, the king stating that he did not 
mean to patronise any particular set of men ; that his object 
was to patronise the arts, and he promised to visit their ex- 
hibition. George III. did visit their exhibition of the ensuing 
year, in Spring Gardens, and presented them with 100/., 
but it was the last visit they had from him. 

On the other hand, his adoption of the Royal Academy 
was immediately followed by the most liberal and effective 

The Royal Hibernian Academy of Dublin was founded 
in 1 823 ; its constitution received the royal signature on the 
5th of August of that year. W. Ashfield was elected its 

* The reader will find many additional details concerning this period 
of English Art- History in Mr. Pye's Patronage of British Art. 



first president. Drawing-schools had been established many 
years previous to the institution of this academy, by the 
Dublin Royal Society, instituted in 1731, and incorporated 
in 1749. Schools of drawing, painting, and architecture 
were established in 1746, by the Earl of Chesterfield, Lord- 
Lieutenant ; and they were presented with a collection of 
casts by the Earl of Charlemont. A school of sculpture 
also was established in 1806. An academy was established 
in Edinburgh in 1826, which became the Royal Scottish 
Academy on the 12th of November, 1838. Sir William 
Allan was elected the first president. A drawing-school for 
artizans had been established by a board of trustees for the 
encouragement of manufactures in Scotland as early as 
1707 ; and about 1765 it became also a school for the study 
of the human figure, under the direction of a Frenchman of 
the name of De la Croix. It has been long well known as 
the Trustees' Academy, and has been the nursery of all the 
most distinguished Scotch artists up to this time : it was 
Wilkie's first school.* The United States of America have 
also their academies of the arts, — those of New York and 
Philadelphia are of some years' standing : the former was 
founded in 1805, the other in 1807. 

Having thus briefly recounted the history of the esta- 
blishment of Academies, it will not be out of place here to 
review their constitution and government, but it will be 
sufficient to notice only a few of the chief European insti- 
tutions of the kind which have a distinguishing peculiarity 
of constitution ; for the regulations of all are very similar, 
and the constitutions of the great majority are exact copies 
of those of the few principal academies. Of these insti- 
tutions, the old " Universitii de' Dipintori of Siena," is one of 
the most remarkable in this respect, and though probably the 
most ancient of all, was, perhaps, the most arbitrary and 
exclusive. Family tuition, if apprenticeship may be so 
called, was the only species of instruction then adopted ; but 
every youth, before he could be admitted into appren- 

* The reader will find considerable detail concerning the Irish and 
Scotch Academies in Mr. W. S. Taylor's Fine Arts in Great Britain and 



ticeship, was obliged to swear always to keep the statutes 
of the corporation, and to abide by the decision of the 
rector, who had authority to impose fines in all cases of mis- 
demeanor, and had also the power of expulsion from the 
community, in which case the expelled could not practice 
his art in the territory of Siena. These powers were awarded 
by the State in the Breve, or deed of incorporation, and 
could not be resisted. No stranger could practise his art in 
Siena without a special licence from this society : the price 
of the licence was a gold florin ; and it appears to have been 
valid only for the particular engagement, or at least visit, 
for which it was granted ; but a stranger might be received 
as a member into the society. The society of sculptors was 
distinct, but was similarly constituted. All members of 
these societies were eligible to fill the offices of their Sig- 
noria, or government, in rotation. The rector, or rectors, 
were assisted by a council of thirteen members, three of 
whom were the rectors' counsellors ; and each society had 
also its treasurer, who was at the same time its secretary. 
The offices were held, by election, for six months only : it 
was not allowed to vote for your own relation, or partner, to 
fill the office of rector ; and no member was re-eligible until 
after an expiration of three years. The officers were paid 
for their services ; the rectors received twenty florins each, 
and the treasurers fifteen : the society of sculptors had three 
rectors. All disputes or doubts relating to the estimation of 
work done or contracted for were settled by the Signory of 
the society ; it appears even, from one part of the statutes, 
to have regulated the price of all work, and to have levied a 
tax upon the amount, which, of course, was really paid by 
the employer or purchaser, as a proper allowance would be 
made for the tax in the estimation of the work. 

The highest fine mentioned in the statutes is forty florins, 
something less than four pounds ; but this in the thirteenth 
century was a very large amount. For disobedience to the 
rector, the fine was ten florins ; the large fines were provided 
against a breach of trust of the rectors or treasurers. The 
following instance will serve to show the value of money at 
this time : — In 1296 a painter was paid, at Siena, only six 
lire, about five shillings, for painting a figure, most pro- 



bably in distemper, of Saint Christopher, in the court of the 
Signory house. 

The other old companies of Saint Luke were very simi- 
larly constituted to this of Siena. 

Of the constitutions of academies, which are assemblies of 
honour as well as gratuitous schools of the arts, that of the 
Royal Academy of London, which is an imitation of the 
Academies of Florence, Rome, and Bologna, will serve as a 
sufficient specimen. Forty, which was the original number 
of the academicians of Florence, appears to have been the 
number of limitation adopted by most subsequent aca- 

The following account of the Royal Academy of London 
is from the article already referred to by the late secretary of 
the academy : — 

The Royal Academy consists of forty academicians, pain- 
ters, sculptors, and architects. There is a second order of 
members, styled associates, twenty in number, from whom 
alone the vacancies that occur among the academicians are 
supplied. The academicians elect, but the approbation and 
signature of the crown are necessary to make this election 

There are also six associate engravers. Associates are 
elected by the body of academicians, from a list of exhibitors 
who declare themselves candidates for this honour. 

There are a treasurer and a librarian. A bye-law of the 
Academy requires that they shall be academicians. These 
offices are filled by the nomination of the crown. 

There are also a keeper and a secretary. These offices 
are filled by election, with the approbation of the crown. 

There are four professors, academicians, elected by the 
general assembly, and approved by the crown, who read 
lectures on painting, sculpture, architecture, and perspective. 

There is a professor of anatomy, elected by the academi- 
cians, with the approbation of the crown. 

There are three schools : a school for study from casts 
from celebrated works of antiquity, a school for study from 
living models ; and a painting school. The first is under 
the care and direction of the keeper ; and the other two are 
under the care of visitors, annually appointed. 

The council consists of nine members, including the pre- 



sident, and has the management of all the concerns of the 
Society. All bye-laws of the Academy must originate 
in the council, and have the approbation of the general 
assembly, and the sanction of the royal signature to give 
them effect. 

The president, council, and visitors are annually elected, 
and confirmed by the royal signature. 

There are also several honorary members of the Royal 
Academy, namely, a professor of ancient literature, a pro- 
fessor of ancient history, a chaplain of high rank in the 
church, an antiquary, and a secretary for foreign corre- 
spondence, elected by the general assembly and approved by 
the crown. 

All persons are admissible as students, of the Academy. 
Nothing but indication of talent and a respectable character 
are required from them. Their names remain unknown till 
judgment is passed on the specimens which they send in, and 
when admitted they receive a gratuitous education from the 
best masters. 

All painters, sculptors, or architects, whose works show 
sufficient merit, are allowed to exhibit with the Academy, 
and, being admitted exhibitors, they are immediately eligible 
as associates. Many young artists, whose great abilities have 
promised to contribute to the credit and support of the insti- 
tution, have been chosen associates, and soon afterwards 
academicians, though they had scarcely left the schools. 

The executive government of the Academy passes in rota- 
tion to all the academicians, and half the council retires, and 
is renewed annually.* 

The operations of the Academy are continued in regular 
succession throughout the year, excepting vacations of a 
month in September and a fortnight at Christmas. Unfor- 
tunately the necessity of giving up the only room fit for an 
antique academy to the annual exhibition of sculpture 
renders the cessation of that school during the exhibition 
still unavoidable. 

The schools of drawing, painting, and modelling are open 
daily from ten to three, and from six to eight, under the direc- 

* A full account of the rules of the Academy will be found in the 
Abstract of the Instrument of Institution and Laws of the Royal Academy 
of Arts in London. 1797. 



tion of the keeper and visitors. A practical course of lec- 
tures on perspective is given during the spring. The 
lectures on anatomy are delivered before the Christmas 
recess ; those on painting, sculpture, and architecture, are 
given twice a week, from January to the end of March. The 
library is open three times a week. 

Prizes are annually given to encourage meritorious stu- 
dents, and those who have gained the biennial gold medal 
have from time to time an opportunity of being sent abroad 
to study for three years at the expense of the Academy. — 

To this account may be added some additional information 
drawn from the minutes of evidence before the select com- 
mittee of the House of Commons, above alluded to, on the 
arts and principles of design, in 1S36. 

The finances of the academy are under the management 
of four trustees, one of whom is elected; the remaining 
three are trustees, ex-officio, namely, the president, the 
secretary, and the treasurer. 

All officers of the academy are paid officers, except the 
auditors and the inspectors of works imported by British 
artists for their own use : but all the salaries are very 

* The president has no fixed salary, but has an equal part of forty- 
five shillings, which are divided at every meeting of the council ; at 
every general meeting, also, in common with all the other members, he is 
entitled to a fee of five shillings if he attend. A similar custom appears 
to have prevailed in the old society of sculptors of Siena with regard to 
the rector and the treasurer ; the former received a fee of five pence 
(ten soldi), the other a fee of two and a half pence (five soldi). From 
this regulation it appears that a member of the council, if constant in 
his attendance, can receive only about eight or nine pounds during the 
course of the year ; and an academician, not a member of the council, 
may receive about fifty shillings during the year. The office of the 
president, however, will, at the decease of Lady Chantrey, be the first 
office in point of emolument as well as rank in the Academy, for the 
president will then have the reversion of 300/. per annum, according to 
the will of the late Sir Francis Chantrey. 

The keeper of the Academy has a salary of 100/. and apartments in 
the Academy ; the secretary has 140/. per annum, besides an allowance 
for apartments ; the treasurer receives 100/., and the librarian 80/. per 
annum. Each of the four professors of painting, sculpture, anatomy, 
and architecture receives 60/. for the delivery of a course, during the 
year, of six lectures. There is at present no professor of perspective, but 
a teacher. The visitors of the schools are paid one guinea for every 
evening attendance of at least two hours. 



The professorships of ancient literature and ancient his- 
tory are merely honorary, and of course there are no salaries 
attached to them. Dr. Goldsmith was the first professor of 
ancient history ; and he notices the honour in the following 
sensible manner, in a letter to his brother, quoted by 
Northcote, in his Life of Reynolds : — " The king has lately 
been pleased to make me professor of ancient history, in a 
royal academy of painting, which he has just established, 
but there is no salary annexed ; and I took it rather as a 
compliment to the institution, than any benefit to myself. 
Honours to one in my situation are something like ruffles to 
a man that wants a shirt."* 

The exhibition of the Academy is arranged by what is 
called the " Hanging Committee," from the pictures selected 
by the council out of all the works sent to the Academy 
for the purpose of exhibition.*)* 

The election of associates, when there are vacancies to be 
filled up, takes place after the exhibition has closed. A 
general meeting of the academicians is held in the exhibi- 
tion rooms before the collection is dispersed, for the purpose 
of examining into the respective merits of the various candi- 

* The only value of this appointment was to give Goldsmith a dinner 
once a year, for it entitled him to a place at the annual dinner given by 
the Academy to the patrons of the arts, which takes place immediately 
before the opening of the exhibition in the month of May. As this 
dinner, which costs the Academy about 300/. annually, has been an ob- 
ject of attack from the opponents of the institution, a notice of it is 
perhaps desirable. This dinner, to which are issued 140 invitations, is 
entirely arranged by the council for the time being : of these invitations 
many are entitled official, that is, persons holding certain high offices in 
the church and state are invited, by virtue of their offices, and others 
from their rank or reputation in society. Whatever vacancies may still 
remain to make up the number to 140 are filled up by ballot, each 
member, commencing with the president, proposing an individual, who 
must be distinguished either for rank, talent, or as a patron of the arts. 
No member has any power whatever to introduce a friend to this dinner: 
he may propose a friend, but his admission depends upon the general 
ballot. In the first category are included the princes of the royal family, 
the corps diplomatique, the principal ministers of state, men greatly dis- 
tinguished in the arts of war or peace, and well-known patrons of 
the arts. 

| The Hanging Committee consists of three, four, or even five members, 
each of whom is allowed two guineas per day for his services. The 
profits of the exhibition amount to about 5000/. per annum. 



dates who have registered their names as such ; and the 
election takes place on the first Monday in November. An 
artist is not eligible until he is twenty-four years of age, nor 
is he eligible if he belong to any other society of artists. 

£20,000 of the funded stock of the academy, 47,000/. in 
1836, are expressly reserved for the provision of pensions 
and allowances for superannuated or distressed members. 

The Koyal Academy of Paris, though formerly very 
similar to that of London, now differs materially from it in 
many points ; but engravers always have been full members 
of it. It has no control, as the Academy, over the annual 
exhibition of the Louvre, which is a government, or rather 
royal institution, independent of, and distinct from it ; the 
jury, however, for examining the pictures sent for exhibition 
is generally composed of academicians. 

The academy of arts of Paris, " Academie Royal des 
Beaux Arts," is the fourth of the five academies of the in- 
stitute of France, under the special protection of the king. 
Its present form was established, and its old name restored, 
by Louis XVIII. in 1816, and it varies but very slightly from 
that established by Napoleon in 1803 ; its original statutes 
were retained, with few modifications. It is composed of 
forty members, of whom fourteen are painters, eight sculp- 
tors, eight architects, four engravers, and six musical 
composers. All the members of each academy are eligible 
to any other : each academy has its distinct government, 
but the establishments of the institute are common to all the 
academies. The academy has a class of ten foreign associ- 
ates, correspondents both French and foreign, and a class of 
ten honorary members called free academicians, or associes 
libres. The office of secretary is for life, with a salary 
attached to it of 6000 francs. The title of an academician 
is, Membre de lTnstitut. The members are elected by ballot, 
and the election is subject to the approval of the crown. 
Every one of the forty academicians has a salary of 1500 
francs, if he be constant in attendance at the meetings of the 
academy, otherwise, a deduction is made for every time that 
he is absent ; and if he do not attend during the whole year, 
the deduction from his salary is 300 francs, which are divided 
among those who do attend. The meetings of the academy 
are weekly ; prizes are distributed annually ; and those who 



obtain the grand prizes in the different classes, except 
engraving, are sent to Home, where they are educated in the 
French academy for three years, at the expense of the 
government. The Institute of France is maintained entirely 
by the French government ; the funds are managed by a 
committee of ten members, two from each academy, of which 
the minister of public instruction is the president. The 
other four academies are the Academie Francois ; the Aca- 
demic des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres ; the Academie des 
Sciences ; and the Academie des Sciences Morales, et 
Politiques. The last was founded by Louis Philippe, in 

Each academy has a president and a vice-president, who 
succeeds the president in his office, which is annual. The 
election is arranged by ballot, and the same member is not 
immediately re-eligible. The president, the vice-president, 
the secretary, and the members of the administrative com- 
mittee of each academy, constitute or did constitute a com- 
mittee of finance for their respective academies. In the 
time of Napoleon, those who obtained the grand prizes, in all 
five classes, were sent to the French academy at Rome for 
five years. The students in painting and sculpture thus sent 
out, were obligated to send to Paris within the first three 
years of their period, respectively, a study in oil colours and 
a model, which, however, remained the property of the artists. 
In the fourth year, they were respectively required to send 
home, a copy of a picture by a celebrated master, and a copy 
in marble of an ancient statue ; in both cases the choice of 
the works being left to the artists themselves : these works 
became the property of the nation, as also did those of the 
fifth year, which were an original picture, containing more 
than two figures of the life size, by the painter ; and an 
original model of a naked figure, also of the life-size, by the 
sculptor. The engravers were obligated to send an engraving 
of figures of a certain size, or, if medallists or gem engravers, 
a medal, or a gem in rilievo and intaglio.* There were at 
this time two decennial prizes of 10,000 francs each, for the 
academicians, one for painting, and one for sculpture. 

* These pensioners are afterwards entitled to the style of " Ancien 
Pensionnaire de 1' Academie de France a Rome." 



The schools of instruction in the arts are not in the palace of 
the Institute, nor are they a part of the academy ; there is a 
distinct establishment, entitled the " E'cole Royale des Beaux 
Arts," which is under the superintendence of four directors, 
assisted by eight professors, who do duty in rotation. Lec- 
tures are also given by twenty professors on all the different 
subjects connected with painting, sculpture, and architecture. 
It has occupied, since 1816, the buildings of the old convent 
of the " Petits Augustins," where Lenoir had collected the 
" Musee des Monuments Francais," which was dispersed by 
order of the government in that year. A great part of the 
present edifice, however, is new, and has been built since 
1830, by M. Duban : it contains galleries for collections, and 
commodious lecture and exhibition rooms. In the chapel, 
which has been restored, has been placed Sigalon's large 
copy of the " Last Judgment," by Michelangelo. 

The Akademie der Bildenden Kiinste, of Vienna, is both 
school and assembly of honour, but the number of its mem- 
bers is not limited in its statutes. It is under the immediate 
protection of the emperor, through the curator, and indepen- 
dent of every other authority ; all the servants of the academy 
must wear the same livery as the servants of the imperial 
court. It uses for its seal, the imperial eagle, with the 
inscription, " Cassarea Regia Accademia Artium." 

The schools of the academy are four, namely, painting 
and sculpture, engraving, architecture, and ornamental 
design. Each school is under the superintendence of a 
director, who is assisted by a professor for each class of the 
particular division, and these have likewise assistant masters, 
called correctors. The directors and professors of the 
schools are ex-officio members of the council of the academy, 
Akademie-E-ath. The offices of curator, president, and 
secretary, are for life ; the appointments are made by the 
council, but require the ratification of the emperor. The 
curator, as already mentioned in another place, must be some 
high officer of state ; the president cannot, and the secretary 
need not, be an artist. The directors and professors of the 
schools, whose offices are also permanent, are likewise elected 
by the council, with the sanction of the emperor : the choice 
of correctors, or masters, is ratified by the curator. All 
members of the academv are exempt from military service, 



and from the tax on trades and professions. The members 
of the academy, both professional and honorary, are elected 
by the academy as a body, and the election is ratified by the 

Candidates for academical honours must present a speci- 
men as a reception piece, which, upon their election, becomes 
the property of the academy. Engravers are obliged to 
present to the academy an impression of every work executed 
by them, subsequent to their election as members. Hono- 
rary members vote at the general meetings of the academy. 

In the old Academy of Painting of Paris, there was a 
degree, or rank termed, Agree, which was peculiar to the 
French academy : the rank of associate in the Royal Academy 
of London, was probably taken from this rank in the French 
academy, yet they were degrees of a very different nature ; 
the members, however, were chosen from the agrees. 

The advocates of academies are not agreed as to the objects 
of their establishment, many asserting that they are intended 
for the 'promotion, while others maintain, on the contrary, 
that their establishment was imperative for the 'preservation 
of the arts ; by affording an adequate elementary instruction, 
and by offering as an inducement to exertion, honours and 
distinction to those deserving of them. It is a fair question 
how far either of these purposes has been served ; as to 
the preservation, perhaps an affirmative may be acceded, 
but as regards the promotion, it is very doubtful, beyond the 
creation and preservation of a uniform style of art, through- 
out Europe generally. It is this suppression of originality, 
this levelling of all capacities to one standard, that is the 
chief danger to be guarded against in an academic education. 
That an assembly of students constantly aiming at the same 
ends, copying the same models in the same manner, should 
acquire a very great sameness of thought and style, is not 
extraordinary ; and it is this consummation, the trim method 
of mediocrity, that is the shoal that the academic helmsman 
has to avoid. Oral instruction should be made as prominent 
as practical instruction in academies, principles and examples 
should reciprocally illustrate each other, the necessity of 
reflection enforced as prominently as mechanical dexterity, 
and then the ideas would keep pace with the fingers. 

Oral instruction, proceeding from a competent source, is 

D 2 



the only corrective or preventive of this general mere tech- 
nical tendency of academic education. It should, therefore, 
be the aim of all academies to appoint efficient persons to 
give frequent lectures on all the various branches of study, 
constituting the substance of an academic course of study, 
on the history, the principles, and the practice of art ; to 
show what may be done by pointing out what has been done; 
to distinguish between what is essential and what is acces- 
sory ; what to be emulated and what to be deprecated. It is 
difficult to see how a iv ell-regulated academy can be prejudi- 
cial to the arts ; the multiplication of the labourers in the 
field of art, when well instructed, can only be denounced as 
a prejudice to the cause of art, by a narrow-minded selfish- 
ness — the labourers in the cause of truth and beauty cannot 
be too numerous. It is perfectly true, on the other hand, 
that academies are not necessary to the production of great 
artists ; it is also an incontestable fact that the rise of acade- 
mies has been coincident with the decline of art ; yet this 
does not show that the latter was a consequence of the 
former, though it may be owing to their inefficient systems. 
However this may be, the artists of the seventeenth century, 
unable to overlook the obvious decline of art hurrying to its 
consummation, associated together for its preservation ; and 
thus, gratuitous academies of art supplanted the old-esta- 
blished system of family tuition, to which the famous schools 
of Italy owed nearly all their greatness. 

It is to the decline of taste that Fuseli attributes the 
origin of academies, rather than impute to them the coinci- 
dent deterioration of art. He confesses, however, that the 
remedy was inefficient ; that the arts continued to retro- 
grade, notwithstanding academies ; that they are unable to 
check the decline of, or to correct the public indifference to, 
art. " The very proposals," he says, " of premiums, honours, 
and rewards to excite talent or rouse genius, prove, of them- 
selves, that the age is unfavourable to art ; for had it the 
patronage of the public, how could it want them ? We have 
now been in possession of an academy more than half a cen- 
tury ; all the intrinsic means of forming a style alternate at 
our commands ; professional instruction has never ceased to 
direct the student ; premiums are distributed to rear talent 
and stimulate emulation, and stipends are granted to relieve 


the wants of genius, and finish education. And what is the 
result ? If we apply to our exhibition, what does it present, 
in the aggregate, but a gorgeous display of varied powers, 
condemned, if not to the beasts, at least to the dictates of 
fashion and vanity? What, therefore, can be urged against 
the conclusion that, as far as the public is concerned, the art 
is sinking, and threatens to sink still deeper, from the want 
of demand for great and significant works ? Florence, Bo- 
logna, Venice, each singly taken, produced, in the course of 
the sixteenth century alone, more great historic pictures than 
all Britain taken together, from its earliest attempts at paint- 
ing to its present efforts. What are we to conclude from 
this ? That the soil from which Shakspeare and Milton 
sprang is unfit to rear the genius of poetic art ? or find the 
cause of this seeming impotence in that general change of 
habits, customs, pursuits, and amusements which for near a 
century has stamped the national character of Europe with 
apathy or discountenance of the genuine principles of art ? 

" But if the severity of these observations, this denudation 
of our present state, moderates our hopes, it ought to invi- 
gorate our efforts for the ultimate preservation and — if 
immediate restoration be hopeless — the gradual recovery of 
art. To raise the arts to a conspicuous height may not per- 
haps be in our power : we shall have deserved well of poste- 
rity if we succeed in stemming their further downfall ; if we 
fix them on the solid base of principle. If it be out of our 
power to furnish the student's activity with adequate practice, 
we may contribute to form his theory ; and criticism founded 
on experiment, instructed by comparison, in possession of 
the labours of every epoch of art, may spread the genuine 
elements of taste, and check the present torrent of affectation 
and insipidity. 

" This is the real use of our institution, if we may judge 
from analogy. Soon after the middle of the sixteenth cen- 
tury, when the gradual evanescence of the great luminaries 
in art began to alarm the public, an idea started at Florence 
of uniting the most eminent artists into a society, under the 
immediate patronage of the Grand Duke, and the title of 
Academy. It had something of the conventual air, has even 
now its own chapel, and celebrates an annual festival with 
appropriate ceremonies — less designed to promote than to 



prevent the gradual debasement of art. Similar associations 
in other places were formed in imitation ; and, at the time 
of the Carracci, even the private schools of painters adopted 
the same name. All, whether public or private, supported by 
patronage or individual contribution tvere, and are, symptoms 
of art in distress ; monuments of public dereliction and 
decay of taste. But they are at the same time the asylum 
of the student, the theatre of his exercises, the repositories 
of the materials, the archives of the documents of our art, 
whose principles their officers are bound now to maintain, 
and for the preservation of which they are responsible to 
posterity, undebauched by the flattery, heedless of the sneers, 
undismayed by the frown of their own time." * 

This is a peculiar view, and it is evidently quite distinct 
from, and even opposed to, that opinion which maintains that 
academies are the promoters of the arts. It is very probable 
that the academy of Florence, and perhaps some other of the 
earliest academies, were founded chiefly with a view of fel- 
lowship, and secondarily under an idea that the fellowship of 
distinguished artists must conduce to the establishment and 
preservation of the most approved principles of art. How- 
ever, that this worthy disinterestedness was the prime mover 
in the foundation of subsequent academies, is barely more 
than possible. 

Dr. Waagen, director of the gallery of Berlin, another 
eminent critic, though not professional, has expressed an opi- 
nion more decidedly against academies ; and the effect which 
Fuseli attributes to public apathy is by him, in a great measure, 
attributed to the operation of academies themselves. Though 
of course public patronage is not a mere phrase, and artists 
are not the arbitrators of the state of the arts, there is a por- 
tion or degree of public patronage which is quite beyond 
their control, and entirely independent of the effect of their 
works. Dr. Waagen, in his evidence before the committee 
of the House of Commons, in 1835, in answer to a question 
regarding the best method of practically promoting the fine 
arts, gave an answer of which the following extract, as im- 
mediately connected with this subject, may be here usefully 
quoted. Speaking of the relative advantages of private 
masters and public schools of the arts or academies, he 
* Lecture xu. ; 


says — " Instead of following the 6 mode of feeling ' of a dis- 
tinguished master, to which the pupil attached himself as to 
something living, until he was confirmed in the development 
of his own sentiment of art, in academies the cold general 
rule is substituted, which the young man is strictly bound to 
follow, according to the infallible direction of the professors, 
as the only correct method. In this manner, in the 18th 
century, a great number of works of very limited merit were 
produced, in which all academical rules of composition, draw- 
ing and chiaroscuro were strictly observed, which, notwith- 
standing, appear only as well-executed exercises, and leave the 
spectator cold, because they are wanting in the first and most 
indispensable attributes of works of art, namely, the impress 
of the vivid individual feeling of the artist, which is the real 
soul of a work of art. If it possesses this ' impress ' of the 
artist's feeling, we overlook the possible defects in drawing 
and colour, as so many works of the ancient artists prove ; 
when this impress is wanting, the most perfect acquirements 
in other degrees of art cannot replace it. 

<; The natural result of the academic institutions conse- 
quently, was that on comparing a number of specimens of the 
different schools, such as those in Paris, Petersburg, and 
other places, all exhibited a striking similarity of manner, 
while, in the earlier times and in the earlier method of 
teaching, the character of the schools of different nations, 
and that of each individual artist, was entirely original and 
distinct. As, in Dutch gardens, the different kinds of trees 
were clipped to the same forms, so it was the case in acade- 
mies with the different talents of different pupils. Would 
not any one feel a greater pleasure in the free growth of the 
trees in a forest, in preference to the monotonous uniformity 
of a Dutch garden ? By this academic method, which dead- 
ened the natural talent, it is sufficiently explained why, out 
of so great a number of academic pupils, so few distinguished 
painters have arisen. The three most distinguished artists 
which, for instance, Germany produced in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, namely, Mengs, Denner, and Dietrich, owed their edu- 
cation not to academies, but were educated after the old 
manner. So, in our own days, the two most distinguished 
of the living artists of the German school, Cornelius and 
Overberk, have risen to eminence in the most decided oppo- 



sition to the academies ; and the most eminent modern Eng- 
lish artists, namely, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Barry, Wilson, and 
Flaxman, did not receive their artistical education in an aca- 
demy. That these men, when they were already celebrated 
artists, became members of academies, has nothing to do 
with the question, which is simply this : whether the acade- 
mies have obtained their objects as institutions of instruc- 
tion ? It must not, therefore, mislead us in favour of acade- 
mies, that in our times a great many of the most celebrated 
artists have been members of academies. From the begin- 
ning it must have been the interest of those academies, by 
the reception of persons who enjoy a great reputation, to 
procure to the academies splendour and distinction, which 
otherwise would often have been wanting. With this, ano- 
ther injurious effect of the academies has been connected, by 
means of the official distinctions which the academies enjoy 
through the influence of the state. They have attained a 
preference over all the artists that do not belong to the aca- 
demies, which the academies watch over very jealously, and 
have thus introduced into the freedom of art an unsalutary 
degree of authority and interference. It occurs often that a 
very mediocre artist, of which every academy counts some 
few among its many members, stands much higher in the 
state as an academician than the most talented artist who does 
not belong to an academy. As the majority of mankind 
look more on authority than on genuine merit, it has occurred 
often that a moderate artist, being an academician, has found 
plenty of employment, while artists of considerable talent, 
who do not belong to such an institution, remain unemployed 
and unnoticed." 

This is the sum, perhaps, of what can be justly said 
ngainst academies ; this, however, applies not to what aca- 
demies might become, but to what they have been. Would 
not a thoroughly efficient system of education counteract 
even all these ill consequences — a system which should 
make the principles as prominent as the practice of art ? The 
discourses of the official lecturers should be made to supply 
the place of the intercourse and conversation which passed 
between the pupils and the masters of old, and to which the 
individual development of the early painters of Italy was 
mainly indebted. 



James Barry, with whose lectures this volume commences, 
was born at Cork, October 11. 1741. His father, John 
Barry, was of good descent, but was employed, in early life, 
as a builder, and, for a long time, as a coasting trader be- 
tween England and Ireland. Barry himself made some 
voyages, when a boy, in his father's vessel, but he found 
this occupation so distasteful to him, that his father was in- 
duced to allow him to follow his own inclination, and put 
him to school in his native place. Barry appears to have 
made his first attempt at oil painting as early as the age of 
seventeen : at about twenty years of age he had made such 
progress as to venture to visit Dublin with one of his per- 
formances, which, exhibited in the rooms of the Society for 
the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, 
obtained him the notice and friendship of Burke: the sub- 
ject of this picture was, " St. Patrick Baptizing the King of 
Cashel." In his twenty-third year, on the invitation of 
Burke, he visited London ; and after a year's delay in the 
great metropolis, he was enabled, by the noble generosity of 
the same friend, to visit Italy, and prosecute his studies in 

Barry was deeply impressed with all that he saw in the 
" Eternal City," and, indeed, was delighted with the great 
works of Italian art generally; but he appears to have been 
more fascinated by the technical excellence of the Carracci 
and their scholars, than impressed by the profounder quali- 
ties of the works of the great heads of the Florentine and 
Roman schools : the remains of ancient sculpture, however, 
appear to have exacted the greatest share of his admiration ; 
in these he found the beauty of form in its fulness : in 
painting, he found the highest perfection in the colouring of 

He left Rome, after a stay of nearly five years, in the 
spring of 1770, and passing leisurely through the various 
cities, so rich in the treasures of art, in the north of Italy, 
he returned to England in the early part of the following 
year. He gained considerable notice in London by a picture 
of Venus *, the first work executed by him after his return 
* It is engraved by Valentine Green. 



from Italy ; this was followed by several others, which all 
tended to confirm his reputation ; and when, in the early 
part of 1774, a scheme was promulgated for the decoration 
of St. Paul's Cathedral, with large historical pictures, Barry 
embraced the supposed opportunity with enthusiasm : but 
the whole plan, as is well known, soon fell to the ground, 
through the bigoted opposition of Dr. Terrick, then bishop 
of London.* Barry, however, was not to be so easily set 
aside ; and as he could not obtain a place in St. Paul's for 
the display of his powers, he sought it elsewhere, and found 
ample scope in the great room of the Society of Arts at the 
Adelphi. Here, in 1777, he commenced gratuitously, like 
Polygnotus of old, his great series of pictures, illustrative of 
the civilisation of man, and his final state of beatitude, or 
misery, hereafter. These pictures are six in number ; the 
first represents the story of Orpheus ; the second, a Greek 
Harvest Home, or Thanksgiving to Ceres and Bacchus, — a 
beautiful composition in every respect ; the third, the 
Crowning of the Victors at Olympia ; the fourth, Navi- 
gation, or the Triumph of the Thames ; the fifth, the Dis- 
tribution of Premiums by the Society of Arts ; and the 
sixth and last, Elysium, or the State of Final Retribution.f 
These works, though, with the exception of the last, full of 
vigour of conception, are executed with an impetuosity 
which appears to have spurned all the more delicate refine- 
ments of art : the painter's own peculiar individuality of 
character is forcibly mirrored in them ; and it is rather sin- 
gular that they should present such a forcible contrast to 
what one would be led to expect from the quality of his 
lectures, in which material excellence, and all the technical 
perfections of art, are most prominently inculcated. In the 
Victors at Olympia, however, some parts of the human figure 
are admirably drawn, and in an elevated and manly taste. But 
of all these works, the Greek Harvest Home is the most 
perfect as a picture ; it is a composition full of meaning and 
beauty, and appeals forcibly to our best sympathies : it is a 
beautiful illustration of the often quoted exclamation of 
Virgil, " Oh, too fortunate husbandmen, — if they did but 

* See note to Opie's Second Lecture. 

-j- They were engraved in a bold effective style by Barry himself. 



know their happiness."* These pictures were finished in 
1783 ; and the only remuneration Barry received for his 
nearly seven years labour, were the proceeds of the two 
exhibitions of the works, and two hundred and fifty guineas 
presented to him, at different times, by the society. f He 
received, however, considerable benefit from the etchings of 
these designs, which he completed in 1792. 

Barry was elected Professor of Painting to the Royal 
Academy in 1782, as successor to Mr. Penny, its first pro- 
fessor ; but he was again expelled that body in 1799, chiefly 
in consequence of his somewhat intemperate publication, 
entitled, A Letter to the Dilettanti Society, respecting the 
obtention of certain matters essentially necessary for the 
improvement of public taste, and for accomplishing the 
original views of the Royal Academy of Great Britain, 
published in 1797, and of some correspondence consequent 
on that publication.^ How far Barry was justified in his 

* Geory. ii. 458. See Barry's Second Lecture. 

f These six pictures are described by Barry himself, in a pamphlet 
entitled, An Account of a series of Pictures in the Great Room of the 
Society of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, at the Adelphi, 1783. 

\ Whatever may have been Barry's provocation, he was at least sin- 
cere in all those schemes and efforts for the advance of art which 
led to his rupture with his colleagues: and his expulsion from the 
Academy appears to have been abrupt and irregular. A detailed account 
of this affair will be found at the end of the second volume of Barry's 
Works, in the form of an Appendix to the Letter to the Dilettanti 
Society. The following portion of the correspondence may be here 
quoted : — 

" Sir, — I am informed that, after my departure from the general 
meeting of the Royal Academy yesterday evening, the Academy pro- 
ceeded to a vote, tending to my expulsion from their body, and that the 
professed ground of that measure was the admission imputed to me of 
the charges on which it was founded. As that resolution, according to 
the forms of the Academy, must undergo further discussion at another 
meeting, the interest I take in the good opinion of my fellow academi- 
cians obliges me to lose no time in applying to you for information* 
whether such be the fact ; and if it be, I am to request that you will take 
the earliest opportunity to demand from the proper authority, in my 
name, an authentic copy of the articles exhibited against me ; which 
were publicly and repeatedly refused to me at the two last general 
meetings. It will afford me extreme satisfaction if, by my timely pos- 
session of that paper, as well as of all others in your custody, which may 
be necessary to the fair and full discussion of the case, I shall be enabled 
to offer such a defence as shall induce my colleagues immediately to recal 
their most severe and unmerited sentence. But if, unfortunately, I shall 



charges against the Academy, that every motion he made for 
the advance of art was strenuously opposed by a mercenary 
cabal, the reader may investigate for himself in the copious 
documents, published by Barry on the subject : that an indi- 
vidual of Barry's impetuous character should, on finding his 
favourite schemes constantly thwarted, occasionally give 
way to the impulses of temper is not extraordinary, but it is 
remarkable that a whole deliberative body should allow its 
decisions to be completely controlled by personal resent- 

Barry ended his life of turmoil and trouble on the 22d of 
February, 1806, and his body, after lying in state in the 
great room at the Adelphi, was buried, with the usual cere- 
monies, in St. Paul's Cathedral. 

be disappointed in that expectation, you will be pleased to acquaint those 
gentlemen with my most unwilling determination to lay myself at his 
Majesty's royal feet, with the humble but assured hope of obtaining re- 
dress from his Majesty of an oppression drawn upon me only by my 
zeal for that institution, of which his Majesty is the great founder and 
constant indispensable protector, and inflicted upon me with a contempt 
of the forms practised in every well-regulated society towards the most 
atrocious offenders. 

u I am, Sir, your very humble servant, 

"James Barry. 

" P. S. — I expect you will favour me with a written answer to this 
letter as soon as may be. 

"To John Richards, Esq., Secretary to the Royal 

" Academy. Dated from the Lyceunrin the Strand, 

" Tuesday, April 16. 1799." 

After receiving, on the following day, a notification from Mr. Richards 
that that gentleman could not give him any information without the 
authority of the Academy, his formal dismissal was announced to him on 
the 24th, as follows : — 

" Sir, — The General Assembly of Academicians, having received the 
report of the committee appointed to investigate your academical con- 
duct, decided, that you be removed from the office of professor of painting, 
— and, by a second vote, that you be expelled the Royal Academy. 

*' The Journals of Council, the Report of the Committee, and the Re- 
solutions of the General Assembly, having been laid before the King, his 
Majesty was graciously pleased to approve the whole of the proceedings, 
and strike your name from the roll of academicians. 

" I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, 

" John Richards, R. A., Sec. 

" James Barry, 

" Royal Academy, April 24. 1799." 



Barry delivered, in all, six lectures to the students of the 
Royal Academy: he commenced his duties in 1784, and 
continued to deliver the course, with various additions and 
improvements, until 1798. These lectures, it is unnecessary 
to say, are compositions of great merit ; riot as mere literary 
productions, but for the general sterling quality of their 
subject matter, for independence and originality of thought, 
and for their unshackled freedom of expression, which could 
but suffer by the slightest castigation of the fastidious pen 
of ordinary conventionalism. Still, like all individual pro- 
ductions, they have their individual bias : they frequently 
betray a dominant partiality for the outward form of art, for 
the material and technical excellence of execution. Barry's 
greatest delight was evidently rather in the form and colour 
of a work of art, than in its sentiment ; there are passages 
in these discourses which, if extracted and compared, would 
convey the idea that their author considered Raphael and 
Michelangelo to have been respectively surpassed by Dome- 
nichino and Pellegrino Tibaldi, or Parmigiano : he awards 
the Carracci and their school a far higher position than 
would be assigned them at the present day. 

Barry had great knowledge and experience, and his mate- 
rials were generally well at his command : some of his illus- 
trations are extremely happy, as, for instance, the following, 
in his Lecture on Chiaroscuro: — "The same principles of 
uniformity and variety, or of variegated unity, which must 
be previously pursued in so arranging and constructing the 
figures and general forms of a picture, that they may serve 
as a proper substratum for that chiaroscuro which brings 
them to the sight as an harmonious totality — these same 
principles, and these only, are the constituents of all similar 
agreeable effects in architecture." — " But what is immediately 
for our purpose, and was, indeed, my inducement for men- 
tioning architecture in this place, is, the occasion it affords 
for the illustration of the utility and importance of chiaros- 
curo, and the absolute necessity of its being a leading con- 
sideration in the fabrication of all objects presented to the 
sight. Attending only to the actual fact, without entering 
into the reasons or the necessities which might have occa- 
sioned it, we must confess, that many of our churches, and 
the public buildings of the last age, have the same bad 



appearance as Chinese pictures, where there is no light-and- 
shade to give brilliancy, repose, and majesty of effect ; mere 
walls inlaid with pilasters or half columns, unconnected 
perforations for windows and doors, and nothing to relieve 
the sight from a dull, disgusting, monotony of light, without 
shade. This hateful insipid uniformity cannot be removed by 
diversifying forms on the same surface, like mere outlines on 
paper." — "Whatever impressions of boldness and masculine 
vigour, whatever soft and feminine gracefulness, and what- 
ever easy splendid luxuriance, men of taste and sentiment 
have discovered in the three Grecian orders, these peculiar 
characteristics are in nothing more discoverable than in 
their several chiaroscuros.' , — " To descend even to Gothic 
churches — their cloisters, aisles, and the different partitions 
of their front and lateral views, almost always present the 
eye with large masses of shade, which give the necessary 
support and value to the parts illuminated, and produce such 
a relievo and effect in the totality, as makes a considerable 
impression of awe and grandeur on the mind, in despite of 
its very barbarous and defective particulars. Thus it is 
apparent, that variegated unity, and its consequent relievo 
of a proportionate light and shade, is the operating cause 
of the beautiful arrangements in architecture, as well as 
in painting and sculpture." 

After the expulsion of Barry, Fuseli was made Professor 
of Painting in his place, and he commenced his lectures in 
1801 ; but upon being appointed Keeper of the Academy, on 
the death of Wilton, the sculptor, in 1804, he resigned the 
professorship of painting, and was succeeded in this office by 

John Opie was born in the parish of St. Agnes, near 
Truro, in Cornwall, in May, 1761 : his father and grand- 
father were carpenters. He appears to have been a preco- 
cious boy, and is said, at the age of twelve, to have made 
such progress in Euclid, arithmetic, and penmanship, as to 
have been enabled to commence an evening school for the 



instruction of the peasants of his parish.* He appears, also, 
at a very early age, to have displayed a talent for drawing ; 
and some of his juvenile performances, having attracted the 
notice of Dr. Wolcot, that gentleman recommended him to 
his acquaintances, and eventually brought him with him to 
London, under the firm persuasion that Opie's talents were 
destined soon to obtain a notoriety even in the metropolis. 
Wolcot introduced him to Sir Joshua Reynolds ; and, in 
1782, Opie appeared as an exhibitor at the Royal Academy. 
He, for some time, made a considerable sensation as the 
" Cornish genius ;" but, the novelty passed, he had the same 
up-hill course to pursue with his fellow-labourers in the 
field of art. Opie, however, maintained his position as a 
portrait painter, and he also produced frequent essays in 
historical art : among his best historical works are accounted 
the Murder of James I., King of Scotland ; the Presentation 
in the Temple ; Jepthah's Vow ; the Death of Rizzio ; 
Arthur taken Prisoner ; and Arthur with Hubert. " His 
pictures," says West, " possessed, in an eminent degree, 
what painters call breadth. They were deficient in some of 
the more refined distinctions which mark the highly-polished 
works of Raphael, Titian, or Reynolds ; but they displayed 
so invariable an appearance of truth, as seemed sufficient to 
make a full apology, if it had been wanted, for the absence 
of all the rest. 

" On his canvas, in general, no heterogeneous tones ap- 
peared : all was played in one key. This principle was ob- 
served with the extremest nicety in single figures, though not 
always equally in the whole. The figure and the back 
ground were each separately just, but they did not always 
harmonise. One of the happiest instances of his labours, in 
the perfect harmony of tone, is the picture of Belisarius, at 
present (1807) in the British Gallery, and soon to add 
value to that of the Marquis of Stafford. His portrait of 
Mr. Fox, in the exhibition of 1805, and that of the Duke of 
Gloucester, which will be seen in the ensuing one, are 
examples of similar excellence. 

"In his drawing, the same principle prevailed as in his 

* The viith number of The Artist, which was inscribed to the me- 
mory of Opie: it is printed at the end of the memoir which precedes the 
edition of Opie's Lectures, published in 1809. 



colouring. Every thing was homogeneous ; every thing was 
marked with precision, and in its place. He gave vivacity 
and force of expression to every subject of his pencil."* 

This is the criticism of a friend, but it is doubtless true of 
Opie's best pictures. He was, however, very unequal in his 
works : the want of harmony spoken of by West, is very 
obtrusive in some, and others are wholly deficient in transpa- 
rency ; and so far from possessing an effect of reality, remind 
most painfully that they are but painted representations. 

Opie died in the prime of life, April 9, 1807, exactly one 
month after the first delivery of his lectures at the Royal 
Academy ; and was buried near Sir Joshua Reynolds, in St. 
Paul's Cathedral. He was twice married ; the accomplished 
Amelia Opie was his second wife ; she survived her husband 
many years : he was divorced from his first wife. 

Opie obtained the professorship of painting in 1805, but 
he delivered his course of lectures but once, in 1807, and 
then in an incomplete state. It was his intention to compose 
six lectures, as follows : — design or drawing, colouring, chiar- 
oscuro, composition, invention, and expression ; those on 
composition and expression he did not live to write. 

The most striking feature of Opie's lectures is, their com- 
plete dominance of feeling : they are the ebullition of an 
ardent enthusiasm — fluent, forcible, and eloquent — but too ex- 
clusively the expression of feeling. Opie dwells rather upon 
his own estimate of the value and importance of art generally, 
than upon its actual principles. Like Barry, he has openly 
displayed his partiality for the eclecticism of the Carracci ; 
but though more fluent and more elegant in his style than 
his predecessor, he remains far behind him in subject matter, 
in variety of example and illustration, both historical and 
critical. It must however, be confessed, that the opportunities 
of Opie were few compared with those of Barry, and that 
he was cut off in the commencement of his career, while 
Barry numbered years of experience, in which to mature 
the fruits of his superior opportunities. No one sincerely 
interested in art can peruse the lectures of Opie without 
participating in their enthusiasm, and at the same time being 
both greatly pleased and instructed by them. 

* Number of The Artist already referred to. 


Henry Fuseli (correctly Fuessli) was born at Ziirich, 
February 7. 1741. He early displayed an inclination for the 
arts, but as he was destined by his father, John Caspar 
Fuessli, for the church, he was placed in the Collegium 
Carolinum, at Zurich, and there received his degree of Master 
of Arts, and shortly afterwards entered into holy orders. 
Our young priest had scarcely commenced his ecclesiastical 
career, when, together with his young friend Lavater, he 
took up the cause of an injured family against a magistrate 
of Zurich ; and having succeeded in obtaining the conviction 
of the unjust steward, his friends thought it advisable that 
he should leave Zurich for a while, in order to escape the 
resentment of the family. Fuseli left Ziirich, in company 
with Lavater, and the distinguished professor Sulzer, in the 
spring of 1763, and they proceeded in company to Berlin, 
where Sulzer was professor of mathematics : he remained 
but a short time in Berlin, and, by the advice of Sulzer, he 
visited England, where he arrived at the close of the year 
1763. He arrived in this country in the' company of Sir 
Andrew Mitchell. 

Fuseli long maintained himself in London, by literature, 
wdiich he was enabled to do with comparative ease, as he 
had obtained several valuable introductions, through Sir 
Andrew Mitchell. One of his first productions was a trans- 
lation, of Wincklemann's " Reflections on the Painting and 
Sculpture of the Greeks," published, with a dedication to 
Lord Scarsdale, in 1765. 

After spending some years in literary labours, he at length, 
by the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds, ventured to embrace 
painting as his profession, and he accordingly, in 1770, set out 
for Italy, with a view of prosecuting studies to that end : 
in the spring of 1779 he arrived again in London, after an 
absence of eight years. Fuseli first attracted notice as a 
painter, by his picture of " The Nightmare," painted in 
1781 ; a work which, like all the later productions of Fuseli, 
owed its celebrity purely to its idea : his long study in the 
capital of the arts appears to have totally failed in enabling 
him to acquire a mastery over the material or technical 
department of his art. He next produced some subjects for 




Boy dell's Shakspeare Gallery ; his great work, however, was 
his own " Milton Gallery," in forty-seven compositions, 
many of which are of very large proportions. This great 
work occupied Fuseli only nine years, and then probably at 
intervals merely. A collection of forty- seven large pictures, 
painted in about twice as many months, were, of course, 
little more than sketched or indicated on the canvas. 
With Fuseli, however, the time was ample; his pictures 
were finished as soon as their ideas were thrown upon the 
canvas ; and it was quite out of his power to elaborate. 
These ideas, it is true, were in the highest degree original, 
vigorous, and impressive ; as ideas, as conceptions, they are 
entitled to all our admiration, but if painting depends upon 
certain conditions which constitute a peculiar channel for the 
conveyance of ideas, it is evident that a picture must be 
something more than an idea ; it is a dramatic action, repre- 
sented in strict conformity with the laws of nature, both in 
its universals and its particulars ; its means being form, light- 
and-shade, and colour. It is these particulars of form, light- 
and* shade, and colour, that is, individuality r , which Fuseli 
either wholly disregarded, or could not perceive. He is, 
perhaps, the most remarkable instance of the deficiency of 
individuality of representation in the whole history of art. 
It would probably have been less labour for Fuseli to have 
produced a second " Milton Gallery," than to have painted 
the portraits of two brothers, of an ordinary degree of family 
resemblance, in such a manner that any person could have 
distinguished one from the other, from their features alone. 
During his long career, he painted only two portraits. He 
appears to have had somewhat of Blake's constitution of mind ; 
what he saw proceeded from his ideas, rather than his ideas 
from what he saw : he appropriated only general impres- 
sions. Fuseli himself, according to his biographer*, attri- 
buted this peculiarity to a deficiency of will ; his will 
was not co-ordinate with his powers. A little investigation 
however, will show, that exactly the reverse was the case ; 
his powers were subordinate to his will, which in his impetu- 
osity would not allow him to elaborate one idea, before it 
was followed by another, to which he was as eager to give 

* See Knowles's Life and Writings of Fuseli, 3 vols. 8vo. 1831. 



expression. This " Milton Gallery," as is well known, was 
a source of unmitigated disappointment to Fuseli : after the 
close of its second exhibition, in July, 1800, he observed 
to a friend — "I am fed with honour, and suffered to starve, 
if they could starve me and in writing to his friend Mr. 
Lock, of Norbury Park, a short time afterwards, he says : — 
"The greater part of my exhibition, the rejected family of a 
silly father, are now again rolled up, or packed together 
against the walls of my study, to be seasoned for dust, the 
worm, and oblivion." The principal of these compositions 
were : — the Lazar House ; Satan starting from the touch of 
Ithuriel's spear ; Satan calling up his Legions ; the Lubbar 
Fiend ; the Vision of the Deluge ; Eve newly created, led to 
Adam ; Sin pursued by Death ; and a few others, which were 
purchased by the painter's friends. 

In March, 1801, Fuseli delivered his first three lectures at 
the Royal Academy ; they were well received, both by the 
Academy, and by the public, when they were published shortly 
afterwards, in the month of May of that year. In 1805 Fuseli 
became keeper of the Academy, and of course resigned the 
professorship of painting, in which Opie succeeded him. 
After the death of Opie, in 1807, Mr. Tresham was elected 
as his successor, but after a lapse of two years, this gentle- 
man declined to lecture, on the plea of indisposition, and 
resigned his situation ; and as no candidate for the chair 
appeared to succeed him, the academicians unanimously 
elected Fuseli in his place, in 1810, notwithstanding a law 
of the Academy that no two offices were to be held by the 
same person. Fuseli continued professor of painting for the 
remainder of his life : he died at the residence of the Countess 
of Guildford, at Putney Hill, April 16. 1825, a few weeks 
after the last deliver} 7 - of his lectures : his remains were 
interred with considerable pomp in St. Paul's Cathedral. 

Fuseli delivered in all twelve lectures at the Royal Aca- 
demy, but they are very unequal in merit ; several of them are 
unimportant, and, at most, mere fragments referring to their 
subjects rather than illustrating them in all their bearings : 
such, for instance, are those on chiaroscuro, on design, on 
colour, on the proportions of the human form, and on the 
" present state of the art." As in the execution of his pic- 
tures, we have an incessant repetition of the same peculiar 

E 2 



treatment of generalities, their subjects alone being different, 
yet nearly all from one province — the marvellous ; so in 
his lectures, we search in vain for that practical illustration 
by which alone the mind is enabled to appropriate new ideas : 
here and there we have a bright exception, as in the remarks, 
on his brief allusion to expression*, on the several pictures 
of the betrayal and capture of Samson, by Julio Romano, 
Vandyck, and Rembrandt. "Considering it as a drama," 
says Fuseli, "Julio forms the plot, Vandyck unravels it, and 
Rembrandt shows the extreme of the catastrophe. 

" In the composition of Julio, Samson, satiated with plea- 
sure, plunged into sleep and stretched on the ground, rests 
his head, and presses with his arm the thigh of Delilah on 
one side, whilst, on the other, a nimble minion, busily, but 
with timorous caution, fingers and clips his locks. Such is 
his fear, that, to be firm, he rests one knee on a footstool, 
tremblingly watching the sleeper, and ready to escape at his 
least motion. Delilah, seated between both, fixed by the 
weight of Samson, warily turns her head towards a troop of 
warriors in the background ; with the left arm stretched out, 
she beckons their leader ; with the finger of the right hand 
she presses her lip, to enjoin silence and noiseless approach. 
The Herculean make and lion foot of Samson ; his perturbed, 
though ponderous sleep ; the quivering agility of the curled 
favourite employed ; the harlot graces and meritricious ele- 
gance, contrasted by equal firmness and sense of danger, in 
Delilah ; the attitude and look of the grim veteran who heads 
the ambush — whilst they give us the clue to all that fol- 
lowed, keep us in anxious suspense : we palpitate in breath- 
less expectation. This is the plot. 

" The terrors which Julio made us forebode, Yandyck sum- 
mons to our eyes. The mysterious lock is cut ; the dreaded 
victim is roused from the lap of the harlot-priestess. Start- 
ing, unconscious of his departed power, he attempts to spring 
forward, and, with one effort of his mighty breast and ex- 
panded arms, to dash his foes to the ground, and fling the 
alarmed traitress from him. In vain — shorn of his strength, 
he is borne down by the weight of the mailed chief that 
throws himself upon him, and overpowered by a throng of 

* Lecture V. 



infuriate satellites. But though overpowered — less aghast 
than indignant — his eye flashes reproach on the perfidious 
female whose wheedling caresses drew the fatal secret from 
his breast. The plot is unfolded, and what succeeds, too 
horrible for the sense, is left for fancy to brood upon, or 
drop it. 

" This moment of horror the gigantic but barbarous genius 
of Rembrandt chose, and, without a metaphor, executed a 
subject which humanity, judgment, and taste taught his 
rivals only to treat ; he displays a scene which no eye but 
that of Domitian or Nero could wish or bear to see. Sam- 
son, stretched on the ground, is held by one Philistine under 
him, whilst another chains his right hand ; and a third, 
clenching his beard with one, drives a dagger into his eye 
with the other hand. The pain that blasts him darts expres- 
sion from the contortions of the mouth, and his gnashing 
teeth to the cramping convulsions of the leg dashed high 
into the air. Some liendlike features glare through the 
gloomy light, which discovers Delilah, her work now done, 
sliding off, the shears in her left, the locks of Samson in her 
right hand. No words can do justice to the expression that 
animates her face, and shows her less shrinking from the 
horrid scene than exulting in being its cause." 

Fuseli's earlier lectures are the most valuable — those on 
ancient and modern art, on invention, and composition. Of 
these, the two historical lectures are highly interesting and 
instructive ; still, they are far from possessing that origina- 
lity, or that accuracy and comprehensiveness which are ac- 
credited to them ; this is especially the case with the second 
— much is mere allusion, and much pure imagination. His 
exuberant fancy led him into a circumstantial detail of sub- 
ject and treatment, of style and method, which owe their very 
existence wholly to his own imagination. The most charac- 
teristic feature of these discourses, and in which they so 
materially differ from his paintings, is their elaboration of 
style. If, with his ready erudition, Fuseli had as earnestly 
devoted himself to the matter of his subject as he has be- 
stowed scrupulous care on the shape in which he has pre- 
sented it, he would have earned a far greater claim to our 
regard. In the history of modern art, he has told us nothing 
that might not be obtained from many other sources ; and in 

E 3 



his sketch of ancient art, that which is original is more 
fanciful than real. In the lectures of Barry, we are struck 
with the writer's earnest, manly efforts to convey informa- 
tion ; and when he wrote, the means of accomplishing his 
end were comparatively small, the great mass of art literature 
having appeared since Barry's time. In Opie we have an 
enthusiastic devotion to his subject, a passionate and clear 
exposition, at least, of his own views, expressed with a per- 
spicuity and fluency certainly remarkable, considering the 
nature of his early education. In Fuseli, on the other 
hand, with all the advantages of education, a familiarity with 
ancient and modern literature, and a long residence in Italy, 
we have, as the most prominent feature, an incessant aim at 
epigrammatic terseness of style, a striking antithesis of idea, 
or a measured epithetic recurrence — a mere rhapsody of the 
imagination, void of even the slightest symptom of passion. 
The following is Fuseli's mode of expressing the elevated 
character of the style of Polygnotus : — " Polygnotus," says 
Aristotle, "improves the model. His invention reached the 
conception of undescribed being, in the Daemon Eurynomus ; 
tilled the chasm of description in Theseus and Pirithous, in 
Ariadne and Phaedra ; and improved its terrors in the spectre 
of Tityus ; whilst colour to assist it became in his hand an 
organ of expression ; such was the prophetic glow which 
still crimsoned the cheeks of his Cassandra in the time of 
Lucian." — Eurynomus, Tityus, Theseus andPirithous, Ariadne 
and Phaedra, were introduced by Polygnotus into the picture 
of the " shades " at Delphi. 

There is, however, much force in Fuseli's style, and his 
subject appears to be pursued with an energy that never 
flags. His criticism, too, is mature, and often profound ; and 
in this respect he goes beyond either Barry or Opie. He 
has placed the eclecticism of the Carracci on its proper level, 
and has traced the characteristic beauties or defects of the 
several schools with the unerring hand of the master, not- 
withstanding occasional exaggeration, which appears to have 
been an irresistible impulse of his mind. The sometimes too 
exclusively classical allusions, and somewhat pedantic display 
of learning, in which lie now and then indulges, lose, in 
written discourses, much of the objection that they are open 
to in oral lectures, especially before a young and mixed 


audience, very slightly informed in such matters. These 
allusions, however, together with Fuseli's other peculiarities 
of style, rendered his lectures quite unintelligible to the 
younger part of his auditors, until they had heard them 
several times : but when once comprehended, they became 
deservedly popular. 

R. N. W. 

March 7. 184S. 




on the history and progress of the art. 

So much has been written on the subject of painting, that 
it will now be difficult to say any thing in the way of general 
theory, which has not been already either observed upon, or 
hinted at by some one or other of the ingenious and learned 
writers of those countries of Europe, where this art has had 
the advantage of being early cultivated and more encouraged. 
Therefore, without being at all solicitous to avoid or to follow 
the tracks of others, I shall proceed to discharge the duty I 
have been honoured with, by laying before you such a series 
of observations as appear to me best calculated to lead your 
attention into that track of study, which conducted our pre- 
decessors to the excellence that has rendered them so illus- 
trious, and which must enable us (if any thing can) to sus- 
tain and to perpetuate this excellence, and to proceed to the 
further attainment of whatever other desiderata may yet 
remain for the completing and perfecting of art. 

Of all the creatures within the sphere of our inspection 
man alone appears to be endowed with powers for con- 
templating many of the great designations, the extensive and 
various uses, dependencies, and relations, in the creation 
that surrounds him: hence he is impressed with that just 
sense of beauty, of wisdom, order, and goodness, which not 

LECT. 1.] 



only form the foundation of religion and virtue, but of all 
his intellectual satisfaction and happiness. 

With these powers for contemplation, the passion for 
imitation is also congenial to his mind, and exhibits one of 
the most peculiar, and most glorious characteristics of the 
exalted nature of this substitute of Providence upon earth 
as the governing animal. 

The powers of imitation are in nothing more evident 
than in poetry, which employs words or arbitrary signs, and 
in the arts of design^ where the images of the objects them- 
selves are exhibited to the senses in all their realities of 
form and colour. 

I shall hereafter have occasion to dwell more particularly 
upon these modes of imitation, as compared with each other ; 
but at present our remarks will be confined to the imitation 
effected by the arts of design, particularly that of painting, 
which comprehends all the others. 

The rude beginnings of the arts of design are traceable 
amongst the most savage people ; the growth and progress 
of them are co-extended with the general improvement of 
the human faculties ; and the greatest and wisest nations of 
the world have ever considered these arts, particularly paint- 
ing, when taken in its full and comprehensive sense, as one 
of the most accomplished ornaments of polished society. 
Though it will be foreign to our purpose to dwell long upon 
the little which happens to be preserved of the memorial 
and accounts of ancient art, yet a short survey of this 
matter may not be wholly without use. 

But little is known of the Assyrians, who appear to have 
been the most ancient nation ; and yet, scanty as our infor- 
mation is, we find them to have been familiar with the arts, 
which they practised to no inconsiderable extent. 

It is recorded of Semiramis* (w r ho flourished about a 
century before the calling of Abraham) that on a wall round 
one of her palaces, different animals were raised in bas- 
relief, and painted from the life ; and it is worth remarking, 
that these figures were relieved and painted on the faces of 
the bricks before they were burned, and consequently must 
have been vitrified or enamelled. 

* The period of Semiramis is uncertain, and it is even doubtful 
whether there was ever such a person. — W. 


barrt's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

There was also painted on another wall the several 
manners of hunting all kinds of beasts. Here Semiramis 
herself was represented on horseback, striking a leopard 
through with a dart, and her husband Ninus, with his javelin, 
wounding a lion. 

We find mention also of colossal statues of their idols, 
and also of Ninus and Semiramis, some in gold, others in 
brass ; and that these works of sculpture in Assyria were 
not confined to temples and public places, we may be rea- 
sonably assured from the mention of the little images which 
Rachel stole away from her father's house. That the career 
of the arts in Assyria was also a very long one, we may 
learn from the golden statue, sixty cubits high, of Nebu- 
chadnezzar, set up fourteen hundred years after the stealing 
of Laban's images.* 

* As T shall have occasion, in another part of these lectures, to establish 
some weighty consequences on this recorded as well as remarkable fact, 
respecting those coloured, basso- rilievo, historical representations, which 
were vitrified, or enamelled on the brick walls of Babylon, at so early a 
period as the time of Semiramis, it is with great concern I feel myself 
obliged here to take notice of a very mistaken and ill-advised passage 
respecting this matter in one of the most deservedly celebrated works of 
our time. Dr. Lowth, in his new translation of the prophecy of Isaiah, 
ch. ix. v. 10, — " the bricks are fallen, but we build with hewn stones," 
lias the following note on that passage, p. 77. "'The eastern bricks,' 
(says Sir John Chardin, see Harmer's obs. p. 176.), 'are only clay well 
moistened with water, and mixed with straw and dried in the sun ; ' so that 
their walls are commonly no better than our mud walls : see Maundrel, 
p. 124. That straw was a necessary part in the composition of this sort 
of bricks, to make the parts of the clay adhere together, appears from 
Exodus, ch. v. These bricks are properly opposed to hewn stone, so 
greatly superior in beauty and durableness." And, page 95, the bishop 
has the following note on ch. xiii. 19 : — " We are astonished at the ac- 
counts which ancient historians, of the best credit, give of the immense 
extent, height, and thickness of the walls of Nineveh and Babylon ; nor 
are we less astonished, when we are assured by the concurrent testimony 
of moderns, that no remains, not the least traces of these prodigious 
works, are now to be found. Our wonder will, I think, be moderated in 
both respects, if we consider the fabric of these celebrated walls, and the 
nature of the materials of which they consisted. Buildings in the East 
have always been, and are to this day, made of earth or clay mixed or 
beat up with straw to make the parts cohere, and dried only in the sun. 
This is their method of making bricks; see note on ch. ix. v. 9. The 
walls of the city were built of earth digged out on the spot, and dried 
upon the place ; by which means both the ditch and the wall were at 

LECT. 1.] 



On Egyptian art I shall proceed to speak with more plea- 
sure, as we have sufficient monuments yet remaining to 

once formed ; the former furnishing materials for the latter. That the 
walls of Babylon were of this kind is well known, and Berosus ex- 
pressly says, apud Joseph. Antiq. X. 2., that Nebuchadnezzar added three 
new walls both to the old and new city, partly of brick and bitumen, 
and partly of brick alone. A wall of this sort must have a great thick- 
ness in proportion to its height, otherwise it cannot stand. The thick- 
ness of the walls of Babylon is said to have been one fourth of their 
height, which seems to have been no more than was absolutely necessary. 
Maundrel, speaking of the garden walls of Damascus, * they are,' says 
he, 4 of a very singular structure. They are built of great pieces of 
earth, made in the fashion of brick, and hardened in the sun. In their 
dimensions they are two yards long each, and somewhat more than one 
broad, and half a yard thick ;' and afterwards, speaking of the walls of 
houses, ' from this dirty way of building they have this, among other in- 
conveniences, that upon any violent rain the whole city becomes by the 
washing of the houses as it were a quagmire.' (p. 124.) When a wall of 
this sort comes to be out of repair, and is neglected, it is easy to conceive 
the necessary consequences ; namely, that in no long course of ages, it 
must totally be destroyed by the heavy rains, and at length washed away, 
and reduced to its original earth." And on ch. xxx. 13. the bishop has 
the following note. " It has been observed before, that the buildings in 
Asia generally consist of little better than what we call mud walls.' 
• All the houses in Ispahan,' says Thevenot (vol. ii. p. 159.) 'are built of 
bricks made of clay and straw, and dried in the sun ; and covered with 
a plaster made of a fine white stone. In other places in Persia, the 
houses are built with nothing else but such bricks, made with tempered 
clay and chopped straw, well mingled together and dried in the sun and 
then used; but the least rain dissolves them. Sir John Chardiivs MS. 
remarks on this passage of Isaiah are very apposite : * Murs en Asie etant 
faits de terre fendent ainsi par milieu et de haut en has.' This shows 
clearly how obvious and expressive the image is." (P. 158.) 

By this citation from Exodus, and those passages from so many tra- 
vellers and learned men of high credit, it would appear that Bishop 
Lowth was persuaded himself, and meant to persuade his readers, that 
the walls of Babylon were only built of mud and straw, dried in the 
sun ; and from his mention of the ancient historians of the best credit, 
who speak of those walls, without noting any circumstance of difference 
between the ancient and the modern accounts or surmises, another proof 
is afforded of the truth and general extension of an observation, which I 
have long since had occasion to insist upon, namely, that the bulk of 
men seldom see any thing either in the great spectacle of nature, or of 
arts, that they are not by previous studies taught to look for. Men 
must be taught to see, and to distinguish, and however paradoxical this 
may seem, yet nothing is more true : but let us turn our attention to the 
Abbe Terrasson, a knowing and judicious French academician, habituated 
to the conversation and workshops of artists, and consequently to that 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

authorise our deciding with more certainty upon the skill of 
their artists, as to taste and execution. 

gusto, or quick conception, which results from the knowledge of things, 
and not of mere words ; and although no better at Greek scholarship 
than our learned bishop, yet we find, that in lieu of mud walls dried in 
the sun, Diodorus Siculus, as rendered by the Abbe Terrasson, has burnt 
brick walls, brique cuite, with bas-reliefs, four cubits high, executed on 
the faces of those bricks, whilst they were yet fresh, and afterwards 
coloured, and then vitrified by the same heat which burned the bricks. 
Even the learned Latin translator of Diodorus omits the very word of 
his author, dierervircoro, which specifies those figures being in rilievo, 
contenting himself with rendering what he supposed to be the sense and 
matter of Diodorus, without regarding that word, hieTeTvirooro, in which 
he saw no meaning or reference : although in the Lexicon of Con- 
stantini, it [5*aTU7roa>] means, informo, signo, insculpo, insignio, imprimo, 
&c. As to the mere matter of burning those bricks " eos in fornacibus 
coquebant," are the words employed in Wesseling's edition of Herodotus. 
The ancient writers were not mere dealers in words, as is too often the 
case with their translators. The knowledge of things, and the know- 
ledge of words, being too often confounded, it is distressing to reflect 
what must be the fate of many exquisite gustoso remarks on arts and 
artists in the hands of mere bald scholarship, which is not able to penetrate 
even the mere surface and exterior of things : mere words, whether 
Greek, or Latin, or English, are but a poor qualification, when unsup- 
ported by a deep and familiar knowledge of the things treated of ; and 
yet, for the most part, these are the people who presume to hurl indigna- 
tion and anger, where they are not permitted to legislate, who can see 
nothing ancient without admiration, or modern without drawback and 
censure. However, this effrontery and hardiesse has but little relation 
to the amiable and respectable character of Dr. Lowth, though it may to 
a large proportion of the band of his literary associates : he was culpable 
only in not permitting Herodotus and Diodorus to judge of what they 
probably saw in common with so many others. The instances of metal- 
lurgy? knowledge occurring in the very same page of these ancient 
authors should have convinced the bishop, that the Chaldeans could have 
been no strangers to brick-burning, to terra cotta ; the knowledge and 
uses of which must necessarily precede, and accompany metallurgic ex- 
periments and practices. It is difficult to conceive how the bishop should 
have forgotten the remarkable fact of the consultation at Shenaar, long 
before Semiramis and Babylon. Go to ! (say the subjects of Nimrod) 
let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly ; and they had brick for 
stone, and slime had they for mortar : and against this passage in the 
margin, the Hebrew word is intimated to mean burn them to a burning. 
Surely the bishop had no occasion to have shrunk back from the passage 
respecting those painted or enamelled bas-reliefs on the burnt brick walls 
of Babylon, as related by Diodorus. It was not too much for the capa- 
city of the time. The glass beads of all colours found upon the Mum- 
mies of Egypt may be well supposed coeval with the time of Semiramis.: 

£ECT. I.] 



It has been justly observed (and will hold good of all the 
Egyptian statues and fragments of statues, which I have 

the metallic and semimetallic substances diluted with those glasses 
whilst in fusion, might make his conscience easy on this head ; and even 
to go still further back, what shall we say of the glass cases, and statues 
of metal, enclosing the dead bodies and other similar practices by the 
very Ethiopian predecessors and teachers of these Egyptians, so long be- 
fore the existence of Semiramis, and also possibly so long before the 
existence of any mummies in Egypt. But if, after all, the bishop was 
still resolved upon walls of mud and straw, what hindered that he could 
not prudently have cased them with a facing of burnt brick, of which he 
might have examples in Vitruvius and Palladio, more especially as the 
great river Euphrates, and the lake and the ditch formed from it, would 
be likely to operate incessantly, and much more destructively than the 
mere showers of rain observed by Thevenot, which after all could not be 
very frequent in such a climate ? It is also possible, that from these 
accounts of Maundrel and Thevenot, the reader may conclude too 
generally respecting the usage and the state of the arts amongst the 
more modern Persians : for the ingenious Mr. Daniel has favoured me 
with a sketch of part of a tomb, and with two other sketches from 
ancient brick buildings in India, where the bricks are coloured on the 
faces, and, as he says, annealed in the burning ; these bricks, which are 
well burnt, appear very similar to the bricks used by the ancient Romans, 
much resembling what we call tiles. 

It is greatly to be wished that the East India directors would give 
orders for such sufficiently accurate and adequate drawings to be made 
and published of whatever is remaining, which might elucidate the 
ancient knowledge and arts of the Hindoos. Certain matters might 
even be moulded off. How admirable would such a collection accom- 
pany the Asiatic Researches, and whilst (differently from most other 
books) it would communicate information that could not mislead, it 
would comport well with the whole truth of things, whenever that truth 
might be discovered. To us at a distance the satisfaction would be in- 
finite, as we should enjoy the certainty of never having occasion to un- 
learn any part of the information that such a collection of etchings 
would communicate ; and even those gentlemen on the spot in India 
who may be laudably employing any attention to this inquiry, would 
find the greatest conceivable advantage in having always at their elbow 
the entire collection, which, as in all other similar researches, affords the 
best guide for the elucidation of each particular. 

There are many curious particulars respecting general knowledge, 
which might be ascertained by a better acquaintance with the antiquities 
of India. The heads from Elephantis (which are in the hall of the 
British Museum) appear neither to be Hindoo workmanship, nor any 
representation of the character of the Hindoo people. The hair, and 
other characteristic particulars, show a strong resemblance of the Egyp- 
tian, or rather the African Isis, of which two specimens may be seen in 
Dr. Hunter's Museum; and the head of the Sphinx, which I remember 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

seen at Rome and in other places) that the Egyptians, much 
as they had practised in the art, yet never rose to any per- 

having drawn in the courtile of the Belvidere at Rome, is more of the 
Negro character than of the Egyptian or any Asiatic people. The fine, 
loose, and almost masterly fragment of a large hand, and the body of a 
child, also from Elephantis, now in Mr. Townley's hall, are of a much 
higher, and of altogether a different gusto from the piece of real Hindoo 
sculpture in the same hall. The large head of Isis at Lansdown-house, 
as all the other, particularly the finest heads of Isis that I have seen, 
differ evidently from the European and Asiatic character and cast of 
features, and seem to intimate the idea as of African or Ethiopian 
original ; whether this idea was taken from their neighbours, the Ma- 
crobian Ethiopians, or from those in the eastern or western extremities 
of Africa. Whoever these famed Ethiopians were who left such a 
venerated impression on their Egyptian disciples — disciples who were 
themselves so deservedly celebrated for their own wisdom and ingenuity 
— who or whatever these Ethiopians were, whether white or black, they 
must have been identically of the same exterior figure with the Negroes 
of this day, as those heads of Isis might very well pass for a good artist- 
like representation of that degraded people. 

However shocking, it is useful for us to know to what a calamitous 
state nations may be reduced by an estrangement from a just sense of 
their dependence on God ; to which is owing whatever is dignified and 
valuable in human nature : and how, by a long course of idolatrous and 
progressive degradation, men descend at last to the condition of mere 
beasts, not able to raise their ideas above what is called the Dii Fetiches, 
reptile gods ; as is the case of so great a part of those poor Africans, 
whom perhaps we must acknowledge to be the descendants of those 
blameless Ethiopians bordering on the ocean, according to Strabo, the 
Southern Ocean, and whom, according to Homer, the gods annually 
visited for twelve days. 

Although it be difficult, yet we must on certain occasions restrain our 
feelings from carrying us too far into digressions from the immediate 
object of our inquiries, namely, the mere matter of the antiquity and the 
state of the arts, as far as we find authorities either from ancient records 
or existing monuments ; and so far we are warranted to identify the 
Negro race with the very ancient Ethiopian models of the Egyptian Isis, 
&c. Time, and its attendant vicissitudes, effect strange things. But 
however it be, according to Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, these 
ancient Ethiopians, who acted so important a part in the history of early 
arts and knowledge, inhabited that part of Lybia which lies upon the 
Southern Sea, that is to say, south of the Mediterranean, or on the south 
side of Africa, and were, according to the testimony o these writers, so 
practised in the arts, as to make hollow statues, resembling their dead 
relations ; whose bodies were contained within those statues, which were 
of gold, silver, or terra cotta, burnt earth, according to the opulence of 
the possessor ; and enclosed the whole in chrystal or glass cases. Jt is 
not mentioned in Diodoius whether these statues in gold and silver were 

LECT. I.] 



fection above that of practical mechanical conduct. They 
carved the human figure, male and female, in materials the 

cast from moulds formed on clay models, or whether they were ham- 
mered out and chased from thin metallic plating, as was the fact in some 
of the early Greek statues; but whichever way we consider it, even the 
terra cottas, with the power of representing the peculiar difference by 
which each individual was discriminated from the others, argues a high 
degree of cultivation ; and the more, if we add from Herodotus, that 
when these Ethiopians had dried the dead body after the Egyptian 
fashion, or some other way, they laid on a covering of white plaster, 
which they painted with colours as near as possible to the likeness of 
the person deceased. 

This process, both as to the material of white plaster, and the colours 
afterwards employed, is actually the same with the process adopted on 
the painted case, which contains the Egyptian mummy at Dr. Hunter's 
museum, and those at the British Museum. But as Herodotus does not 
mention any covering of linen over the Ethiopian dried bodies, it 
would seem as if the coating of plaster on which they painted was laid 
immediately on the dead body. Here appears some mistake, or at least 
some difficulty : but however it might have been, it manifests such high 
pretensions to knowledge, as would comport well with what these 
Ethiopians affirmed of themselves, namely, that they were the first in- 
stitutors of religious rites (perhaps idolatrous rites), and that the gods, 
in reward for their piety, never permitted them to fall under the yoke of 
any foreign prince. In effect, says Diodorus, they have always preserved 
their liberty by the great union which has always subsisted amongst 
them; and many most powerful princes, who had attempted to subjugate 
them, have failed in the enterprise. Cambyses, after his conquest of 
Egypt, coming to attack them with numerous troops, his army perished, 
and his own life was saved with great risk. Semiramis, that queen 
whose ability and exploits have rendered her so famous, had scarcely en- 
tered Ethiopia, when she found that her design could not be carried into 
effect. Bacchus and Hercules, who had traversed the entire earth, ab- 
stained from warring only with the Ethiopians, whether from the fear of 
their power, or from the veneration which they had for their piety. 

The Ethiopians (continues Diodorus) say, that the Egyptians are one 
of their colonies, which was led by Osiris into Egypt. They even pre- 
tend that the country was in the beginning only a sea, but that the mud 
brought down by the Nile from Ethiopia had settled and made it a part 
of the continent, and that all Egypt was the work of that river ; and 
they add, that the Egyptians derived from them, as their authors and 
ancestors, the greatest part of their laws, and (which I wish you parti- 
cularly to note, as we shall advert to it shortly) that it was from them 
they learned to honour their kings as gods, and to bury their dead with 
so much pomp ; and that sculpture and writing, as well in the hiero- 
glyphic as the common characters, had their birth among the Ethiopians. 
80 far Diodorus Siculus, respecting this ancient people, who thus appear 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. e 

most durable and difficult to be wrought, in porphyry, 
granite, and in basalt ; but they neither did, nor, as it should 

to have been the great originals and disseminators of whatever know- 
ledge was in Egypt. 

As in this place we are not any further concerned with the matters of 
antiquity than just to follow up in a cursory manner whatever memor- 
able traces may be yet remaining of the most ancient arts and knowledge, 
it will be sufficient to observe, that even these Ethiopian predecessors of 
the Egyptians seem themselves to have derived their knowledge from a 
still more ancient people — from the Atlantides, those Titanic descen- 
dants of Ouranus, whose celebrity is unfortunately but too conspicuous 
in the ancient poets and historians ; and who left their names so inscribed 
or identified with the sun, planets, and the other constellations of our 
hemisphere, as to give an additional turpitude and malignity to Sabaism, 
or idolatrous stellar worship, which was already so reprobated in the 
book of Job, and the other prophetical writings, under the odious appel- 
lation of the host of heaven. Diodorus informs us, that "the first 
Egyptians regarded the sun and the moon as the two principal and 
eternal divinities ; that these were the gods who governed the world, 
and occasioned the vicissitudes of the seasons, and contributed to the ge- 
neration of the subaltern beings and elementary substances. Besides 
these heavenly and immortal gods, there were also, according to them, 
terrestrial gods, born mortal, who from their own wisdom, and from the 
benefits they had conferred on mankind, obtained immortality. 

Some of these were kings in Egypt ; and of these kings, some of them 
had names in common with certain gods : as Helius or the Sun. Saturn, 
Rhea, Jupiter, which some call Ammon, Juno, Vulcan, Vesta, and Mer- 
cury. These royal, deified personages, so important in the history of 
Egypt, and which appear to have given a beginning to that history, 
were not of Egyptian but of Titanic origin, and were part of the wrecks 
of that Atlantic people, whose country (according to the Egyptian ac- 
count mentioned in Plato) was submerged by an inundation of that ocean, 
which, probably from the circumstance, was called the Atlantic. 

For some time past the attention of the literati has been much em- 
ployed in endeavouring to recover whatever might be known on this 
subject, particularly the learned and very accomplished M. Baillie, who, 
in discussing some ill-founded conjectures of Voltaire (in his Lettres sur 
l'Atlantide, and also in his history of astronomy), has brought forward 
a great deal of curious and important matter ; but whether from his not 
designing to follow the more obvious route, or from his desire of aiding 
the system of his ingenious friend BufFon, he appears to have unluckily 
gone out of his way ; however, the facts which he discovered and united, 
have completely enabled his successor on the subject, Count Carli, to 
dissipate the literary mist which obscured and prevented our discovering 
that the real situation of the country of these Atlantic or Titanic 
people was really that pointed out in the relation of the Egyptian priests, 
and in the concurrent general traditions. It is this very identical situa- 
tion, which only could have enabled them to have left those Astronomical 

LECT. I.] 



seem, intended to do any thing more. Their figures appear 
neither to act nor think, and have more the resemblance of 

and other usages in South America, which the ingenious and learned 
Count Carli has so well identified with what they disseminated on the 
continents of our hemisphere. 

By what we may gather from Diodorus Siculus, this people came 
from the ocean into the western parts of Africa, were a maritime, 
knowing, most civilised people, compared with the other inhahitants ; 
and he quotes Homer, and might have quoted Hesiod, Sanchoniathon, 
and others, to show that the gods were descended from them ; and that 
their first king, Coelum, governed the greatest part of the world, especi- 
ally towards the west and north ; and that the planets, and many of the 
constellations, have been named after some of his descendants. What 
ideas were anciently entertained of their mightiness and power, may be 
inferred even from the triumphal ejaculations of Judith, ch. xvi., where 
she exultingly sings, that Holophernes was not smote by the sons of the 
Titans, nor by high giants, but by Judith, the daughter of Merari. 

The deification of Ouranus, Saturn, Jupiter, and the other mortals, by 
the transfer and identifying of them with the heavens, the sun, and 
planets, was probably posterior to the catastrophe of the inundation, 
which cut off the communication with America ; and this planetary no- 
menclature became therefore unknown to the Americans, and was only 
coextended with the influence of these Titans, in the countries not very 
remote from Africa and the Mediterranean, which enabled this wander- 
ing, Pelasgian, maritime people, to extend themselves in Tuscany, Tyr- 
rhenia, Lydia, Phrygia, and the countries of Greece and Samothracia ; 
to institute the oracle of Pelasgian, Dodonean Jove in Thessaly, and that 
of Ammonian Jupiter in the Oasis of the sandy deserts of Lybia. In the 
Arcadis of Pausanias, Cecrops is said to have been the first who deified 
Jupiter, although he prohibited any living thing to be sacrificed on the 
occasion, contenting himself with the offering those horned cakes of 
bread, called Bovs: whilst Lycaon, with bloody and inhuman hands, im- 
molated a child to Jupiter Lyceus, and in the midst of the sacrifice was 
said to have been turned into a wolf as a punishment ; and that the god 
and his suppliant were cotemporaries, appears by Jupiter's amour with 
Calista, the daughter of this Lycaon. 

It should seem also by Jupiter's conduct in this story, as told by Ovid 
and Pausanias, as well as by the offerings occurring in the hymns as- 
cribed to Orpheus, that Jupiter, as far as his power reached, was hu- 
manely instrumental in suppressing that horrid and widely extended 
custom of immolating human victims, and was contented that idolatry 
should not be extended further than to the worship of the regal family, 
and the example that he himself set by the altar and offerings to his 
grandfather Ouranus. (See the fragment of Diodorus preserved in 

The Ethiopians, to prevent the abuses of so much regal power, wisely 
provided that their kings should be elected out of the best of the sacerdotal 
or learned order, and under the control of its laws ; and the usages of their 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

dead than of animated nature. They have observed the 
general proportions in a gross and general way, not only 

Egyptian descendants, being much under the direction of the same lite- 
rate and very numerous body, which formed an aristocracy in the true 
sense of the word, it being composed of those who were best educated ; 
it consequently followed, that the public energies, seldom belligerous, 
were generally directed to objects of public utility and pacific, graceful 
enjoyment; the very vestiges of which are the admiration of all enlight- 
ened travellers even at this day. But, in all countries and times where 
this wise check was wanting, and every thing was exposed to the out- 
rages of inflated, deified cupidity, and its execrable instruments ; such 
is the nature of man, so prone to corruption, that it was to be expected 
that this cursed Titanic example of deifying regal families would be im- 
itated by others, in the excesses of their pride and power ; and we may- 
judge of the horrid extent to which it was carried by the mandate of the 
Assyrian king, Nebuchodonozor " to avenge himself on all the earth, to 
destroy all flesh, that did not obey the commandment of his mouth, to cast 
down their frontiers, and cut down their groves, for he had decreed to 
destroy all the gods of the land : that all nations should worship Nebu- 
chodonozor only, and that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as 
God." (Judith, ch. i. 2.) "And who is god but Nebuchodonozor." 
(vi. 2.) When we reflect upon this horrid state of things, resulting from 
the gradual and accumulating corruptions of sabaism or stellar worship, 
identified with these dead and living mortals, which had been thus su- 
perinduced on the primitive, traditional, pure theology, it affords a most 
dreadful exemplary spectacle of degraded (and perhaps in these matters 
impotent) human reason ; and of the deep indelible stain it has imprinted 
on so many nations of the ancient world, who in other respects were so 
much celebrated for their genius and skill. 

The world was happily and mercifully delivered from all this servile, 
idolatrous worship of deified men, and the material agents of nature^ by 
the glorious mission of Moses, whose truly sublime doctrine, and admir- 
able polity were so happily calculated to exalt human nature to its 
destined real dignity, by a just emancipation from all other dependence 
than that on its Divine Creator, and the just and equal laws. He had 
prescribed for their good government, and for perfectionating human 
nature. All these matters duly considered, we ought not to be surprised 
if this grand exemplary code, which stood like a cheering light, a great 
beacon in the ancient world, discovering the extreme turpitude of its de- 
grading idolatries, was regarded as an object of terror and hatred by 
Nebuchodonozor, Antiochus, Claudius, and other such impious tyrants, 
nursed up and fed with base adulation ; and who, as inheritors and claim- 
ants of the same terrestrial and celestial domination, were necessarily de- 
termined to uphold all this idol business, to immolate its opposers, and 
to trample under the feet of their mercenary, pretorian janissary instru- 
ments, every right of equal, common humanity, mental and corporeal. 

The removing and fulminating this degrading and mischievous mass 
of slavish idolatry, which had been so impiously placed between human 

LECT. I.] 


without selection, beauty, or discrimination of character, 
but even without attending to that detail of parts, which to 

nature and its Almighty Creator, Conservator, and Judge, was a grand 
object, which in the legislation of Moses is never out of view : and it is 
peculiarly interesting to us, as painters and sculptors, in this academy, to 
observe, that it was this grand circumstance in the Mosaical code, which 
affords the natural and only true explication of the second commandment 
in the Decalogue, which has been (in these countries more especially) so 
iconoclastically explained, as to be ruinous and subversive of the higher 
departments of art, both in painting and sculpture. 

Idols, idols in the likeness of any thing celestial, terrestrial, or aquatic, 
the making of these idols, and placing them in lieu of Almighty God, as 
divine objects for adoration ; this, and this only, is what the command- 
ment prohibits, and fulminates with such tremendous consequences. If 
the word idol, in this sense, had been put instead of the word image, in 
the translations of our Bibles, we might have rested perfectly satisfied, 
that neither Almighty God, nor his servant Moses, had any intention of 
prohibiting the true religion from the use and exercise of this most uni- 
versal of all languages — the language of forms, read instantly by the 
eye, in all those energies of painting and sculpture, which no words can 
communicate ; and accordingly we find, in their best and most pious 
times, the Jews practised the art as far as they were able, and availed 
themselves of the use of it in the service of religion. Under the eye of 
Moses himself, Bezaleel and Aholiah made the two cherubims spreading 
their wings over the ark of the covenant on the mercy-seat, where God 
resided in the sanctum sanctorum ; and the sacred veil and the curtains, 
which surrounded the holy of holies, were also ornamented with tapestry, 
or embroidered paintings of the same figures of cherubims, which were 
sculptured on the ends of the mercy-seat ; thus surrounding, as it were, 
the invisible God with a visible heavenly choir, both in painting and 
sculpture. And afterwards, when the temple came to be built, the 
cherubims, which were placed all round it, and the brass figures of the 
lions, and the twelve oxen cast in the clayey soil near Jordan, demon- 
strate incontrovertibly the compatibility of the second commandment 
with the making of mere images and representations of any thing either 
spiritual or terrestrial ; and that the crime committed by Aaron and the 
other Israelites in the desert, was not in making a molten calf, but in 
making and worshiping the idol, Apis (probably the Jupiter Ammon or 
Serapis of the Atlantides), as the God who had brought them out of the 
bondage of Egypt. 

As the necessary reconciling the command respecting the prohibition 
of idols with that respecting the setting up of those images both painted 
and carved, and in the most holy places, is easy, obvious, and will suffi- 
ciently remove out of our way all absurd iconoclastic and fanatical pre- 
judices to the making of these or any other mere images, I shall close 
this part, respecting those more early nations, by observing, that al- 
though, nothing can be affirmed as to the merit of those works of paint- 
ing or sculpture of the Chaldeans, Ethiopians, and Hebrew people, yet 

f 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. t. 

an intelligent eye is no less observable in each particular 
member, even in the positions of inaction and rest, which 
they had chosen to represent. Ingenious writers ascribe 
this defect to their want of being skilled in the science of 
anatomy, which their great respect for the dead did not per- 
mit them to cultivate : but they must have been equally 
averse from inspecting and studying the living body, since 
they could no where find any person, who was not very 
bloated and formless indeed, where a much greater variety 
of figure, and detail of parts, was not too obvious to be 
overlooked. However, this fault is less palpable in figures 
at rest, and in female figures, than in the male.* 

The profile figures painted on their mummies in the Bri- 
tish Museum are drawn in the same inaccurate way with the 
figures in low relief, which are carved on their obelisks. 
The eye, but half of which can be seen in profile, is not- 
withstanding drawn at full length, the same as it would ap- 
pear in a front view.f An example of this may be seen in 

it is evident, that at least the mechanical knowledge and practice of the 
arts were then much exercised, particularly in Chaldea and Ethiopia. 1 

* The art of Egypt was not imitative, but conventional and repre- 
sentative. The occupation of the Egyptian artist was hereditary, and 
all the forms, proportions, and attitudes of his figures were prescribed 
and inviolable. — W. 

j- The most comprehensive view of Egyptian art is given in the plates 
to Rosellini's great work on Egypt. — Monumenti delV Egitto e della 
Nubia. The collection of Egyptian Antiquities in the British Museum 
is also now quite adequate to satisfy the demands of the student on this 
subject ; and he cannot have a better guide to the collection than the 
Egyptian Antiquities by Mr. Long, published by the Society for the Dif- 
fusion of Useful Knowledge. — W. 

1 As the matter of this long note is collateral only to the subject of 
discourse, it is unnecessary to lengthen it by further comment or detail. 
The reader will find a general outline of the history of Asiatic and 
Egyptian art in the Editor's Epocs of Painting Characterised, chs. i.-iv., 
and many interesting details respecting Assyrian remains in particular, 
in Sir R. Kerr Porter's Travels in Georgia, Persia, &c. The author's 
view as to the Mosaic prohibition with regard to the practice of the 
imitative arts appears to be correct ; it might be corroborated by many 
passages in Scripture. The arts of the Jews must have been identical 
with those of the Egyptians, at the Exodus : almost every description of 
artist, except the painter, is mentioned in the Mosaic books. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



the sphinx we have in the Academy, which was moulded 
from the Egyptian obelisk in the Campus Martius at Rome. 
It is worth observing, that the body, thighs, and legs of this 
sphinx, and, indeed, all their representations of insects and 
animals, are much more accurately and scientifically exe- 
cuted than their human figures. 

A further confirmation of their ignorance of the true 
principles of drawing may be seen in the kneeling figure of 
the large Egyptian fragment preserved in the hall of the 
British Museum, where, amongst other errors, is this of the 
profile eye. 

On the whole, the Egyptian figures in the round are the 
least defective of their performances, as the common mensu- 
ration of the parts was here sufficient to prevent them from 
straying into gross errors ; but for their figures in profile, 
three quarters, and in all situations which require skill in 
drawing and a knowledge of the true principles of the art, 
they are almost in the same rude and defective state as the 
first Grecian, British, and other coins, the intaglio or en- 
grailed figures on our Gothic tombs, and the uncultivated 
drawings of boys at school, which are faulty in the same 

Reasons have been given, why the Egyptians were never 
able to advance beyond this unformed, gross, and limited 
style of early art, as other nations had done. It has been 
said that the nature of their country was unfit to furnish 
ideas of perfection or beauty ; that their religion did not 
allow the artists to depart from the established form of their 
idols, and that the profession of arts (not being sufficiently 
honoured by the state) was practised only by those who were 
themselves too ignorant and uncultivated to produce any 
thing which was not gross and ordinary. The first of those 
reasons, respecting the mere form of the Egyptians, has, I 
am convinced, no foundation in fact : the others must be 
partly admitted. But it appears to me that the great and 
insurmountable obstruction to their advancement in art 
arose out of the character and materials of their religion, 
wrapt up as it was in a continued allegory (and of the most 
unfavourable kind), where nothing was shown for itself, but 

* The faults of Egyptian sculpture are, as already stated, not those of 
perception but of convention, — W. 

f 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

as the symbol and type of some other thing, a practice that 
must soon be in opposition, and even in direct contradiction, 
to the very essence and destination of art. 

Many of the Egyptian figures, partly human, partly 
brutal, were perhaps appositely enough contrived, as a kind 
of symbolical writing, for the pointing out some necessary 
rural, domestic, or other observances. These figures being 
more durable than the notions and mode of combining ideas, 
which gave rise to them, it is not difficult to conceive how 
in the course of mundane revolutions, these symbols were 
no longer considered as such, but as the images and repre- 
sentations of supernatural beings. But by whatever means 
these figures obtained places in the Egyptian ritual, nothing 
could be more subversive of all advancement and of truly 
elevated art, than fabricating ideal works with allegoric 
and emblematic materials. 

To express any divine power, to clothe, to personify the 
ideas of majesty, of terror, of beneficence, is not to be done 
either by a mixture of forms, or by a multiplication of parts. 
The lion's, the ox's, dog's, or elephant's head, raised upon 
the human shoulders, would appear no less retrograde, and 
shocking to the principles of true taste, than the hundred 
hands or heads issuing from the single body of Briareus, or 
any other monster. 

All that could be reached by such a procedure was the 
merely indicating a conceit with its detailed circumstances. 
But the perfection of form, the pursuit of sublimity, beauty, 
grace, or any other of those valuable qualities which perfect 
art, by calling forth the great exertions and ultimate 
vigour of the artist, had nothing to do in this mode of pro- 
cedure, any more than in alphabetic writing, where a very 
extraordinary perfection of the characters is needless, as it 
would add nothing to the sense. 

It is then not to be wondered at, that the arts remained 
so long in a stagnant and torpid state ; and that after ages of 
dull labour, Plato, when he was in Egypt, could discover no 
difference either for better or worse, between their earlier 
and their later works.* 

* Plato himself (De Leg. ii. p. 656.) explains the reason of this simi- 
larity. He says that painters and sculptors were forbidden to introduce 
any change or innovation into the practice of their respective arts, and 

LECT. I.] 



Thus the arts in Egypt, early turned out of their natural 
channel, were deprived of every invigorating and expansive 
principle, and forced into such a pursuit of conceits and 
uninteresting allegory, as utterly blighted all their future 

As the Assyrians, Egyptians, Phenicians, Persians, and 
the other oriental nations, had cultivated the arts long be- 
fore the Greeks, we cannot suppose the latter to have been 
utter strangers to this previous cultivation of their history : 
the various knowledges they occasionally received and im- 
ported, prove the contrary. Orpheus, Homer, Thales, Pytha- 
goras, Solon, and all their earlier travellers, had time for ob- 
servation and reflection, as they did not go post through the 
countries they visited. Athens was founded by an Egyptian, 
consequently, when the Greeks commenced painters and 
sculptors, at least all the rudiments of the art, the knowledge 
of the materials, and the methods of using them in painting, 
modelling, carving, and foundery, were already discovered, 
and provided to their hands, by their more ancient neigh- 

We must then reject as fabulous, and as a piece of national 
vanity, a great part of the early accounts of the progressional 
discovery of the art in Greece, the finding out the method of 
drawing the profile by tracing its shadow, the adding a colour 
to it in the next generation, and a number of other succes- 
sional particulars by which this people would arrogate the 
original discovery of the whole art to themselves. 

No such beginnings are traceable (however plausible), 
either amongst the Greeks, or even amongst their before- 
mentioned predecessors. So far from finding indications of 
a beginning in any of those countries, we are (even in the 
most early periods) struck with an appearance quite the 
reverse. Very complex usages of art appear to have been then 
reduced to certain rules of mechanical general practice ; whilst 
all knowledge and memory of the first principles and more 
simple methods, which must unquestionably have preceded, 
and served as the basis of these more refined and complex 
usages, seem to have been utterly obliterated and lost. Can 

that thus there was no visible difference between the works which were 
executed in his own day and those which, according to the traditions of 
the priests, had been executed ten thousand years before. — W. 

f 4 


barrt's lectures 

[lect. Tk 

any one doubt but that the idea of vitrifying coloured objects 
upon the face of brick walls, so as to prevent their being 
obliterated by the weather and other accidents, must be sub- 
sequent to the more perishable, though less complex method 
of delineating those objects with simple colours ? and will 
not this reasoning hold equally true with respect to the 
sculptures or paintings, or both, which were embossed, inlaid, 
or enamelled in differently coloured metals, as in the famous 
tablature of Isis*, which is yet remaining, and examples of 
which Homer must have seen, to have furnished him with 
the materials of his idea for the ornaments of the shield of 
Achilles ? Also the historical and other tapestry works of 
the Sidonian and Grecian women could never have origi- 
nated but in the idea of imitating paintings in the more 
simple way, effected with pencil and colours. 

It is very remarkable that Homer, who speaks of these 
annealed and tapestry works, and who was so jealous to let 
no curious knowledge escape that might enrich and give an 
additional interest to his poems, has, notwithstanding, not 
the least allusion to any work of that antecedent, more per* 
feet, and more simple art, which must have furnished original 
exemplars to the first people who undertook those tapestries 
and enamelled or inlaid works. 

Although our tapestry workers at present do nothing ex- 
cellent without a painted exemplar, yet it is easy to conceive 
that the idea of imitation, and the method of working in this 
way, being once established, mere mechanical practice may 
perpetuate and convey rude and less perfect essays of this 
mode of imitation to aftertimes, when the original principles 
of art, and the idea of antecedent exemplars may have been 
lost and blotted out of the memory of men.f 

* Now in the museum of Turin ; but it is supposed to be of the 
Roman period. — W. 

j- The most remarkable work of ancient embroidery, is a purple 
shawl, noticed by Aristotle, which belonged to a citizen of Sybaris. It 
was the property of Alcisthenes, a native of Sybaris, in the sixth century 
before the Christian era, and appears to have been an ordinary woollen 
shawl, in size and all other respects, save the extraordinary nature of its 
embroidery. This embroidery consisted in representations of cities, of 
gods, and of men, including a portrait of Alcisthenes himself. The 
representations of the cities appear to have been human impersonations. 
Above was a representation of the city of Susa, below which were 


Something similar to this appears to be the actual fact 
with Respect even to the paintings of the Egyptians, Gentoos, 
and Chinese. Copying nature, in our sense of the phrase, seems 
to be no part of the intention of their artists. The princi- 
ples on which they worked could never have led them to 
what they have done. Their art (sufficient indeed for the 
purpose intended) was but a loose mechanical abridgment 
and succedaneum of the other more entire, principled, and 
more perfect art from whence only it could have arisen. 
Actuated by mere blind practice alone, they appear to have 
worked after traditionary recipes, which were transmitted 
from one generation to another, without any solicitude after 
other improvement or perfection than, perhaps, in the purity 
or beauty of the mere materials. But as the truth of this 
observation will be still further elucidated by what we shall 
hereafter have occasion to observe in speaking of the compo- 
nent parts of the art, I shall close this inquiry into the anti- 
quity of art by remarking that when the time, the establish- 
ments, the knowledges, original beginnings, and progressional 
practice which must necessarily have preceded the state in 
which we have found the art in Egypt, Chaldea, and the other 
oriental nations, be fully considered, it will be difficult to 
reconcile this aggregate of things with the duration and cir- 
cumstances of any known people existing in that period of 
time between Abraham and Noah. To me these broken, 
unconnected knowledges seem to carry evident marks of being 
really the wrecks and vestiges which might have been pre- 
served after such a general catastrophe as the Deluge ; or, 
rather, a deluge sufficiently universal to have destroyed 
those countries which could have furnished us with the clue.* 

figures of Persians ; in the middle were Jupiter, Juno, Themis, Minerva, 
Apollo, and Aphrodite ; on one side was the impersonation of Sybaris, 
on the other the portrait of Alcisthenes. This shawl came afterwards 
into the possession of the elder Dionysius of Syracuse, who sold it to the 
Carthagenians for the enormous sum of 120 talents, nearly 30,000/. sterl- 
ing. — Aristotle, De mirah. Auscult. c. 99. ; Schweighauser, Animadv. 
in Athen. vol. xi. p. 477. — W. 

* There is no need to lay any great stress upon the received computa- 
tions of those early periods of time, the precise time when the Deluge took 
place ; whether it was universal at the same time, and other particulars 
of the Jewish history and chronology before the calling of Abraham, and 
the difficulty of reconciling these with the known state of arts and na- 
tions. It will not be from our purpose to read here a few passages from 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

However it fared with other classes of men in the East, we 
are told that the Bramins, Mandarins, and priests enjoyed a 

Pere Simon's very valuable critical history of the Old Testament, which 
go to show that Revelation is not concerned in those difficulties. In 
page 54. he observes : " We may likewise apply to the books of Genesis 
what we have already said touching the manner of the registering the 
public acts in the time of Moses. These books contain the creation of 
the world, and many things which happened many ages before him ; and 
in all Genesis there is no observation of God's dictating to Moses what is 
there related. It is not likewise said that he writ by the spirit of pro- 
phecy. But all these histories and genealogies are simply related, as if 
Moses had taken them from some authentic books, or else had had a 
constant tradition." 

Page 116., speaking of the use Josephus made of the Old Testament, 
the good father says, — " It is true that the books of the Bible are only 
abbreviated collections from ancient records, which were more large ; 
but particular persons are not, for all that, permitted to add, upon their 
own authority, or change never so little;" — and book ii. p. 28., re- 
futing an objection of Vossius to the Hebrew text, he says, " It is true, 
and we have already proved it, that we cannot wholly rely upon the 
present Hebrew text in the making an exact chronology ; but we have 
shown at the same time, that neither the Greek Septuagint translation, 
nor the Hebrew Samaritan text, nor Josephus, nor, in a word, all the 
chronology we have of the Bible, is sufficient to give us an exact account 
of. the ages which have passed since the creation of the world. There 
are many vacant spaces, as I have already observed, in the chronology of 
the Scripture, which usually abridge things, to treat only of those which 
relate to the matter in hand. "We shall not, therefore, accuse the Jews 
for having corrupted their chronology out of design ; but we may say, 
that in many places the Scripture is only a bare abridgment :" and a 
little after he add, " Nevertheless I agree with Vossius, that it is impos- 
sible to make an exact chronology from the books of Holy Scripture as 
it is at present, and that we are necessarily to have recourse for that to 
the profane authors, because the holy writers relate only what is neces- 
sary for their design." 

So much is inserted here from this reverend and very learned father, 
as I could not profess to lay aside the vulgar, and commonly received 
chronology preceding the time of the calling of Abraham, and the foun- 
dation of the empire of Nineveh and Babylon, and to insinuate, as I have 
done, the necessity of a greater space of time, in order to correspond 
with the circumstances recorded, with the conquests made, the yoke long 
imposed, and first thrown off in the outset of the Assyrian empire, and, 
above all, with the state of the arts in those early periods. I could not 
allow myself to advert to these, without at the same time satisfying my 
hearers that such allowance did not militate with what was contended 
for by the sincerest and soundest of advocates for revealed religion. Far 
be it from me to insinuate any thing tending to lessen the influence of 
that religion ; persuaded as I am, that fairly and rightly used, it indu- 
bitably affords the best and most generally practicable means of com- 

LECT. I.] 



state of freedom above all tyrannical control, and were in 
possession of whatever education and knowledge then ex- 
isted. If the practice of the arts had been carried on by 
these men in their several countries, something might have 
been expected — some vigour of mind, pursuit of principles, 
and moral pertinence would, sooner or later, have found their 
way into their works. But as the direct contrary was the 
fact, no extraordinary exertions could be hoped for from the 
debased and enslaved orders or casts of men, who possessed 
no feeling of human dignity, or sense of natural equality. 
Artists in such a wretched state, thus robbed of their mental 
faculties, may be able, however, to practise mechanically, 
and to transmit, as these have done, a deposit of usages and 
methods of practice from one generation to another, but it 
would be vain to expect any thing farther. 

From this torpid and worthless state, the arts were hap- 
pily relieved on being transplanted into the Grecian repub- 
lics, where all those baneful obstructions to their growth 
and perfection had no influence. Here were no degrading 
and vile distinctions of tyrants and slaves, which are ever 
infallibly sure to render both abominable and useless. 

Amongst the Greeks the best man, and the most highly 
honoured by the public, was he who could manifest the 
greatest personal worth and the most superior ability. All 
were invited to a competition, where whatever was truly ex- 
cellent in nature, in conduct, and in arts ; whatever was 
great, admirable, graceful, and becoming; whatever could 
tend to give the utmost degree of finish, and completeness to 
the human character, was the object of general admiration. 

To this end, all the abilities and faculties of man were, 
with the most indefatigable industry, employed in all the 

bating those formidable terrors and allurements, which so often obstruct 
human nature in its progress to destined perfection ; and which, even in 
the very arts that imitate this nature, are ever found proportionably de- 
based and worthless, according as their author is held in vassalage by 
those degrading, contaminating motives, which unhappily induce but 
too many to sacrifice the dignity and glory of art to the paltry conve- 
nience or emolument of the artist ; and, worst of all, those who may 
want either capacity or inclination to make the choice of Hercules 
(that is, to prefer glorious duty to servile interest) will, by getting rid 
of conscience, have nothing to hinder them from becoming ductile and 
manageable instruments in the service of wrong. 

76 barry's lectures. [lect. l 

various pursuits of knowledge. The philosopher, the poet, 
the sculptor, and the painter went hand in hand, mutually 
enlightening and perfecting each other ; and the collision of 
all these noble emulations could not fail of producing with 
the public at large the most highly cultivated and expansive 
mode of thinking. 

The artist then, whether painter, poet, or philosopher, had 
every thing to stimulate and to help him forward ; and he 
whose superior abilities could attract the attention and admi- 
ration of such fellow citizens must, indeed, be highly deserv- 
ing the rewards, the statues, and the honourable decrees 
which he obtained. 

The manly philosophy of Socrates, which infused so much 
public spirit, and such a love of virtue and liberty ; which 
produced so many heroes, patriots, brave and worthy men ; 
afforded also the noblest and best adapted foundation for 
authors and artists of a sublime and daring genius. Labo- 
rious and self-denying, it looked with a becoming contempt 
on mere riches, dignities, and all those showy, pompous exte- 
riors which are calculated to encumber, to divert the atten- 
tion from matters of real value, and only to dazzle those 
vulgar eyes which have not strength and penetration enough 
to discover their comparative wretchedness and little worth. 
To arrive at the utmost extent of the human capacity was 
the generous, the prime object of Grecian attention ; and, 
accordingly, the illustrious works which this people have 
produced, are universally acknowledged to be not only the 
standard and ultimatum in their several kinds, but also to be 
in a great measure the prime cause of all approximations to 
perfection ever since. 

When the religion of Egypt was imported into Greece by 
Orpheus, Homer, and others, a great deal of the allegorical 
part of it — all those mixtures and incongruities of form in 
their deities — were thrown aside as cumbrous, uninteresting, 
and disgusting ; and although they erroneously converted 
the attentions and attributes of the Deity into so many dis- 
tinct beings, yet, as by a stretch of the most admirable and 
refined fancy, the characters and forms of their several deities 
were copied after the abstract ideas of whatever was found 
to be most majestic, most beautiful, graceful, or interesting 
in human nature. Their artists had a fair opportunity of 

LECT. I.] 



introducing as much aptness and perfection as such a system 
of Polytheism was capable of receiving. To obtain this, they 
were necessarily led into the most attentive investigation of 
general nature for the culling out all those several perfec- 
tions, male and female, that were particularly adapted to 
each walk of character. This is the ideal of art, the fair, 
legitimate offspring of that perfect in nature, the sense of 
which is more or less congenial to all minds, according to the 
attention bestowed on it. To the pursuit of this ideal, the 
Grecian arts owe all that perfection which the world has so 
much admired in them ; and if the poets appear to have led 
the way into it before the painters and sculptors, it was only 
because the energies of language were easier, more at com- 
mand, and, as the more immediate offtrack of thought, natu- 
rally antecedent to the energies of art. 

From the time of Pericles to the end of the age of Alexan- 
der, which comprehends a space of about two hundred years, 
the arts in Greece have been generally considered as at their 
highest point of excellence. Under Pericles, Phidias and his 
contemporary Parrhasius *, with others, were the introducers 
of the extraordinary style where the art was raised to the 
contemplation and imitation of aggregate, instead of indivi- 
dual, nature. Their peculiar excellence appears to have 
been sublimity, majesty, and characteristic propriety. About 
the time of Alexander, art seems to have been more re- 
markable for beauty, grace, and a certain felicity and taste of 
composition and execution. Though nothing remains of 
Phidias or his contemporaries, except the basso-rilievos on 
the frieze of the temple of Minerva at Athens, and, perhaps, 
a few other such subordinate fragments f (all the greater works 
both in painting and sculpture having been long since mise- 
rably destroyed), yet no intelligent man will ever be inclined 
to question the extraordinary excellence which has been 
ascribed to them. Every doubt will be removed when we 
consider the particulars specified, the universal consent, and 

* The more immediate contemporaries of Phidias arid Pericles were, 
Polygnotus, Micon, Dionysius of Colophon, and Phidias's nephew Pan- 
aenus. Apollodorus, Zeuxis, and Parrhasius were a generation later, 
and belong to a more accomplished period. This will be more explicitly 
shown when we come to Fuseli's Lecture on Ancient Art. — W. 

f The Elgin Marbles, now in the British Museum. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

the decided judgment of many of those who have given this 
testimony, and, above all, when we consider the very great 
excellence of the works which we have remaining, executed 
by the disciples and successors of those greater artists, in 
times when the art is said to have been gradually declining 
and losing its most valuable qualities. 

The Athenian coins, either of this or of any other period, 
afford us no accurate and satisfactory information respecting 
the comparative state and peculiar perfections of the arts at 
Athens. Their coins are far from being remarkable for any 
superior excellence over the other Grecian, or even over the 
more modern coins. The object generally attended to in a 
medal or coin, being of too limited and inferior a nature to 
allow of entering very deeply into the great qualities of art ; 
and in little things, the difference between superior and in- 
ferior artists is not very discoverable. The gems and coins 
of the Roman times, which are not wanting in comparative 
merit, and that, I had almost said, unequalled head of Lucius 
Verus, even larger than life, which is at the villa Borghese*, 
are incontrovertible proofs that people may possess excel- 
lence in the inferior and limited matters of art, who are but 
ill qualified for the greater excellences. 

However, it is advisable not (or at least I am not myself 
inclined) to believe what is said of this decay of art after the 
age of Alexander, without many limitations, as to its degree 
and extent.f A people who had enjoyed such a government, 

* Now in the Louvre, at Paris. — W. 

-f Upon the authority of Quintilian (Inst. Orator, xii. 10. 3.), paint- 
ing was considered by the Romans to have flourished chiefly in the age 
of Alexander and his immediate successors. In the mere mastery of the 
technical difficulties of the art it doubtless did ; but the great period of 
Grecian art was from Cimon and Pericles to the time of Alexander. 
Polygnotus of Thasos, who settled in Athens about 460 b. c, established 
painting in all the essential principles of the art ; character, form, and 
all that is essential in colouring were thoroughly attained by Polygnotus 
and his contemporaries. In the succeeding generation the art was 
rendered dramatic, by Apollodorus, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, Timanthes, 
Eupompus, and their contemporaries. The imitation of the local and 
accidental appearances of objects was added to the generic or essential 
style of Polygnotus ; character and form were enhanced by the addition 
of local colour and tone, and dramatic fidelity of composition. The 
Alexandrian period, which was one only of refinement, did but add va- 
riety of method and effect to the already perfect art of the preceding age. 

LECT. I.] 



and such an education as the Greeks, where reason and 
liberty were so exercised, will take a long time before they 
can be totally corrupted. Whatever new folly and principle 
of corruption may be in fashion, many will be found who 
adhere to the old and good maxims, if not from the reason- 
ableness of the thing, yet at least for opposition's sake. 

The books written by the artists of antiquity (of which 
there were many, and by some of the best artists) are all 

The great masters of this period were, Pamphilus, Apelles, Protogenes, 
Euphranor, Nicias, Nicomachus, Aristides, Pausias, and others ; in es- 
sentials, probably, all more or less equal, yet each striving after distinc- 
tion by undue attention to one or more of the mere technical qualities of 
art ; thus we find one distinguished for grace, another for high finish, a 
third for facility, others for peculiar effects of light and shade, or bold 
foreshortening, some for ingenious or novel devices ; others again for 
skilful grouping, and one only, Aristides of Thebes, for expression. 

As these mere technical excellences of art were made thus prominent, 
the higher qualities of art were overlooked by the succeeding generation 
of artists, and the form became paramount over the essence, even with the 
very pupils of these great painters. This is the rapid decline of Grecian 
art which immediately supervened on the close of the Alexandrian age. 
A glance at the similar revolution of taste and practice which took place 
in Italian art in the beginning of the seventeenth century will render 
this change intelligible. The school of the Carracci, though a partial 
revival at the time, was, when compared with the Roman and Florentine 
schools at the commencement of the sixteenth century, just such a transi- 
tion from essence to form, from sentiment to sense, as that which it has 
been endeavoured to show took place in Grecian art immediately after 
the period of x\lexander. 

That the art never revived from this decline is not remarkable. The 
political revolutions with which Greece was successively convulsed, and 
the dynastic changes which ensued, until it delapsed into a Roman pro- 
vince, were perhaps sufficient obstacles to any further great efforts in 
art ; the only classes that could encourage it being probably either en- 
grossed by politics or engaged in war. Greece abounded in the trea- 
sures of art, handed down to her from the renowned ages ; her temples and 
palaces were crowded with the inestimable works, and the new rulers 
found the transfer of such productions a more expeditious and less 
hazardous process of acquisition than the tardy alternative of requiring 
original productions from contemporary artists. These, therefore, were 
driven to mere expedients for a livelihood ; inferior classes of art became 
predominant, and ^ewre-painters, decorators, caricaturists, and artists of 
still less worthy pursuits became, with few exceptions, exclusively cha- 
racteristic of the times. A full account of these several periods of Greek 
art will be found in the Epochs of Painting, already referred to. — W, 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

perished*, and other authors who were not so practically 
skilled in the art as to enable them to enter accurately into 
the discussion of particulars, are never satisfactory ; because 
they are always too vague and too fond of deciding in the 
lump, as it enables them to conceal their want of skill in dis- 
criminating. When the different walks of art have been 
successfully filled by great men whose reputations have been 
chronicled and established by time; succeeding artists, 
though of equal merit, will in the same country be with 
difficulty allowed the full praise they deserve, especially by 
the second-hand critics, who generally draw a line of separa- 
tion between the old occupiers of reputation and the new 
comers ; since it is much easier to repeat the character that 
is recorded of Phidias, Praxiteles, or Lysippus, than to in- 
vestigate the merits of an Apollonius or an Agasias. When 
one examines that unparalleled piece of excellence, the famous 
Torso of the Belvedere (of which we have two casts in the 
Academy,) it is really astonishing to find that the name of 
Apollonius, the Athenian, who executed it, is not even once 
mentioned by any author of antiquity.*)* But I shall in 
another place advert more particularly to the merits of this 
and some other admirable Grecian remains, as affording the 
best examples of the method of employing the study of nature 
in a work of imagination. 

As to what some affect to observe about a Roman style of 
sculpture, and the difference between it and the Grecian, I 
never could discover any solid ground for such a distinction. 
It appears that under the kings, and in the early times of 
the republic, the Romans were but little skilled in the arts, 
as they for the most part availed themselves of the ingenuity 
of their neighbours, the Etruscans, for whatever statues and 
public works they wanted to have executed. After the taking 

* Pamphilus wrote on Painting and celebrated Painters ; Euphranor 
on Symmetry and Colours; Melanthius, Apelles, and Protogenes also 
wrote on Painting. Several sculptors likewise wrote upon their art ; — 
many such works are referred to by Pliny, in his compendious history 
of ancient art in his Natural History. Junius gives a list of these and 
other works in his Pictura Vtturum y p. 55. edd. Rot. 1694. — W. 

f All that is known of him is derived from the inscription on the 
work : he was a native of Athens, and his father's name was Nestor. — W 

LECT. I.] 



and pillage of Syracuse*, Corinth t, and the other Grecian 
cities, when the Romans became more familiarly acquainted 
with the excellent productions of art, such works of painting 
and sculpture as were occasionally executed at Rome were 
no otherwise Roman than from that circumstance, as they 
were wrought by Grecian artists, and a few Romans, their 
disciples and imitators. Better and worse may be found in 
what they have done, but that is all ; the style is the same, 
and there is less reason for considering the Dying Gladiator 
as one of the best executed monuments of Roman art, than 
for believing it to be the performance of some indifferent 
Grecian artist. 

The works of the Etruscans, and of the Greek colonies set- 
tled in Campania, would be hardly worth mention here, were 
it not for their painted vases, which are so far curious, as 
they may afford some, though a very faint idea of the 
Grecian painting. The figures on some of those vases are 
spiritedly and not unskilfully drawn, when we allow for the 
unavoidably loose inaccurate process of such works ; and the 
taste of design and composition is often exceedingly elegant ; 
but for what I have seen of them, they are all, to the best of 
my recollection, flat, like the Egyptian pictures, without any 
relievo of light and shadow. Though different colours are 
frequently employed in these paintings, yet as there is 
nothing of that gradation of colour, which is effected by light 
and shadow, or the different degrees of strength and weak- 
ness, each object is of one colour. Whether this be an 
imitation of the old method of those they called Monoch- 

* This was the conquest of Syracuse by Marcellus, 214 b.c. The 
works of art which were brought to Rome to adorn the triumph of 
Marcellus were the first productions of Greek art which were publicly 
exhibited among the Romans, and were the first incentives to that taste 
for decorating their public buildings with pictures and statues, which led 
to the subsequent universal spoliation of Greece and Asia of their trea- 
sures of art. At first, says Plutarch (Marcel. 21. ), Marcellus was 
accused of having corrupted the public morals, since, from the intro- 
duction of these works, the Romans wasted much of their time in 
discoursing about arts and artists. Marcellus, however, boasted, even 
before Greeks, that he was the first to teach his countrymen to esteem 
the exquisite productions of Greek art. — W. 

f 146 b. c. — W. 


82 barry's lectures. [lect. i. 

romatists*, or whether these vases were executed before any 
more improved method of painting was known, I shall leave 
others to determine. But these Etruscans and Campanians 
being early swallowed up by the Roman government, their 
progress in the arts was interrupted, and they were after- 
wards too much engaged in assisting to extend and sustain 
the conquests of this military people, ever to think about 
resuming the subject of arts ; until this enormous mass of 
useless destructive power was happily beaten to pieces by the 
barbarous nations. 

It is curious to reflect that the exertions of art seem to 
arise from the disappointment of the human mind, sated, 
disgusted, and tired with the monotony of real persons and 
things which this world affords, so full of imperfection, and 
accompanied with so much misery, strife, and injustice. In 
proportion to the serenity and goodness of the mind, it natu- 
rally turns away from such a state of things, in search of 
some other more grateful and consoling ; and it has a natural 
horror of those atheistical cavils, which would malignantly 
deprive it of all other resource, by mercilessly chaining it 
down to the scene before it. Hence it arises, that the minds 
of men in all ages and places where they were at leisure, 
and happily relieved from the apprehensions of war, tyran- 
nies, and all their horrid train of consequent miseries, have 
naturally dilated, and found consolation in the objects of 
religion, which they would anticipate and realise by their 
endeavours to cut and carve them in blocks of wood or 
stone ; whether detached from their parent rocks, and set up 
in high and honoured places of frequent resort, or, as was 
probably the more ancient way, cut into and making part of 
immense excavations, as is seen in the mountains of India. 
Whether this subject matter of religion be well or ill rea- 
soned upon in these detailed efforts, whether it be taken 
from the various incarnations of the Indian Vishn'u, the 
more elegant forms and ideas of the Greek mythology, or 
from the more consoling and happily adapted matter which 
results from the more rational hopes and fears inculcated by 
the Christian religion ; yet the whole together forms an 
astonishing chain of the most indubitable proof of the thirst 
of the mind for a more satisfactory state of things, and of 
* See Fuseli's First Lecture. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



its natural recurrence to the arts of design, as the first, the 
universal and natural written language, which in furnishing 
the means of expressing this universal testimony, affords an 
opportunity of tracing human nature through an immense 
tract of ages ; through India, Egypt, Greece, and Italy : and 
although whatever was not connected with the religion of 
those people was not thought of as worth commemorating, 
yet many other matters and usages are luckily preserved by 
their incidental connection with the superior matter which 
otherwise would now be utterly lost to us ; and every thing 
fully considered, what should we have known of the ancient 
nations, their arts and knowledges, were it not for the 
stimulus which religion afforded to the human exertions ? 
what other motives ever did or could supply its place ? 

The deplorable calamities of wars, rapine, and every 
misery, which for so many centuries deluged Italy during 
the ambitious contests of rival emperors, elected by the dif- 
ferent bands and legions of soldiery ; the incursions of the 
northern barbarians, who destroyed them, and divided the 
spoil, and the struggles of these, with the succeeding inun- 
dations of other northern hordes, equally savage ; their 
long contests in the aggregate masses, and afterwards in 
the no less mischievous fragments into which they were frit- 
tered, left the mind no leisure, but wholly occupied it in 
contriving for the necessary security of mere bodily exist- 
ence. However, though late, this fermentation did at last 
more or less subside into settled governments ; and the 
embers of the arts of design, and indeed all other arts and 
knowledge which had been providentially kept alive by the 
monks of the Greek and Latin churches, were again kindled 
into a flame by people who now felt themselves at ease, and 
in a condition to cultivate intellectual enjoyments. 

In the thirteenth century, John Cimabue, the disciple of a 
Greek mosaic painter at Florence, was the glorious instru- 
ment of the resurrection of the arts of design in Italy ; 
which a happy combination of moral causes had greatly con- 
tributed to advance and to perfect.* The Christian religion, 

* It may seem invidious to take from the glory of any man, but ad- 
vanced knowledge has long since shown us that Cimabue is indebted for 
this high position much more to the circumstance of his being the first 
painter chronicled by Vasari, than to any extraordinary merit of bis own. 

g 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. e 

which was then universally established, opened a new and 
large field for the exercise of the arts, in order to provide 
pictures and statues for their churches, as necessary helps 
and furtherances to piety, serving at once for books intel- 
ligible to the unlettered, and for memorials to assist the 
recollection, and give fervour to the hearts of those who were 
better informed : and whenever the works of art have not 
answered these purposes, it is an abuse to which every, even 
the best things, are liable, as the fault lies not in the art, but 
in the artist, or in the employer who suffers the abuse. 

From what has been observed respecting the Egyptians, it 
is very apparent that nothing can be a greater bar and im- 
pediment to the advancement and dignified exertion of art, 
than a mean, grovelling, and contracted disposition in the 
artist ; whether it arises from the political debasement of 
the rank he fills in society, or from his own sordid and con- 
temptible election in preferring pelf to glory; as under 
either of these states, men cannot avail themselves of the 
necessary advantages of education, and give a loose to that 
noble, heroic spirit, which is the true foundation of original 
and expansive ability and personal worth. But under the 
Christian dispensation the successors of Cimabue were fortu- 
nately under no influences obstructive to their advancement. 
Christianity had so elucidated that question about the natural 
rights and legal equality of mankind, as to make the sullen 
spirit of absolute tyranny utterly inconsistent with all its 

He was preceded by Niccola and Giunta Pisani, Guido of Siena, Buona- 
ventura of Lucca, Margaritone of Arezzo, and some others, little, if at 
all, inferior to Cimabue himself. Niccola Pisano was a sculptor. The 
Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, and the greater intercourse 
generally which then arose between the Greeks and Italians, is doubtless 
one of the principal causes of the comparatively sudden progress of the 
arts in the thirteenth century. In considering this subject, however, due 
weight must be given to the two most important discoveries, of gun- 
powder and printing, which immediately preceded the great revival of 
the arts, and contributed, indirectly, in various ways, to realise it. 
The reader will find the connexion between ancient and modern art 
traced with some detail, in the second and third books of the Editor's 
Epochs of Painting. 

Giovanni Cimabue was born at Florence in 1240, and died there, and 
was buried in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore, — it is not known in 
what year ; but he was still living in 1 302. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



governments, of whatever form ; even the philosophy of 
Socrates, so creative of exalted worth and ability among 
the Grecians, was not farther removed from narrow, un- 
productive selfishness, than the rigid self-denial, philan- 
thropy, beneficence, and unceasing intellectual culture which 
Christianity so pressingly recommends. Christianity is 
indeed the perfection of the Socratic doctrine, with eluci- 
dations and motives for the performance of them, of which 
Socrates appears to have had no knowledge. 

These are the great and only sources of all admirable and 
sublime exertions ; and therefore if the Italians have not 
carried some parts of the art to as high a pitch of perfection 
as the Grecians, other causes, sufficiently obvious, will fully 
account for it without our foolishly supposing their religion 
prevented it ; and notwithstanding what Shaftesbury, Webb, 
and other late writers have unwisely and peevishly insi- 
nuated to the contrary, yet assuredly Christianity is far from 
being hostile to genius. There have been too many noble 
monuments of Christian art executed within the last three 
centuries, for us to entertain the least doubt of the compa- 
tibility of our religion with the highest flights of the imagi- 
nation ; if we be but sufficiently grounded in other matters, in 
science and general education, the materials of Christianity 
are capable of any thing. Phidias, Parrhasius, and Apelles 
knew nothing, which in our situation they might not have 
employed with success. 

In the little republic of Florence, which gave birth to so 
many restorers of science, letters, and arts, painting, sculp- 
ture, and architecture were advanced and perfected by the 
consecutive labours of well-employed artists during the 
course of almost three hundred years, from Cimabue to Da 
Vinci, Fra Bartolomeo, and Michelangelo ; and it is but 
justice to observe, that the people of this republic deserve 
praise for more than they have actually done ; for though 
they filled the churches and great houses of Florence with 
this professional art, and consequently had but little space 
remaining for any monuments of art when it was perfected, 
the advantage of this more perfect art fell upon easy terms 
into the hands of the neighbouring states ; some part of it, 
as will be observed, made the foundation for the beautiful 

G 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

superstructure the Venetian school raised ; and all the re- 
mainder was carried to Rome by Raphael and Michelangelo, 
and received no small increase and improvement from the 
intellectual vigour of the sublime and graceful mediums 
through which they passed. 

Every part of Italy became distinguished for some admir- 
able excellence, which their great artists about this time 
peculiarly cultivated, and which have since become in some 
measure the appropriate characteristic of their several 

It is certain that Raphael was the greatest painter Italy 
ever produced, as his great excellence and superiority over 
the others lay in the sublimer and more admirable parts of 
the art ; notwithstanding that he is inferior to the Greek 
sculptors in those very particulars : and though the two 
great leaders of the Venetian and Lombard schools, Titian 
and Correggio, carried the practice and conduct of colours, 
chiaroscuro, and the mere imitation of nature, to a much 
greater degree of perfection, yet the pre-eminence of Ra- 
phael is not to be disputed. 

The vigour which Raphael disseminated in the Roman 
school was very transitory, and would have perished with 
his immediate disciples, but for [Ludovico] Carracci and 
his scholars, who for some time kept up the credit of sound 
design, against the meretricious practices of mere base, low 
imitation, and trite, flimsy, and vague invention, with which 
the followers of [Michelangelo da] Caravaggio and [the 
Cavaliere] D'Arpino contended for the vogue. 

The state of Parma was too small and too poor to afford 
the necessary exercise for any native painter after Correg- 
gio ; however, Parmegiano had in him a good model in the 
articles of grace and spirituality, and his other countryman, 
Lanfranco, was much indebted to him for his picturesque 

The three Carracci at Bologna had borrowed much from 
Correggio, and endeavoured to unite his merits with those 
of the Roman and Venetian schools ; and in some of their 
works, as well as in the w r orks of some of their disciples, 
this union is effected in a great and respectable degree.* 

* See the Sennet of Agostino on this subject, in Fuseli's Second 
Lecture. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



As the merits of the Venetian school consisted mostly in 
the mechanical conduct of the art, there has been propor- 
tionally less decay in its vigour than in the other schools of 

When the arts were in their highest vigour in Italy, they 
were imported into France by that lover of ingenuity, 
Francis I., who laid the foundation of all that glory to which 
the French nation has so fair and just a claim for what they 
had done under Louis XIY. 

The merits of the Flemish and Dutch schools ought not 
to be overlooked in this retrospective view of art. The 
Dutch, it must be confessed, have deviated widely from all 
the sources of elegance, pathos, and sublimity ; induced not 
only by that sordid disposition, which will ever be epidemic 
in a country so generally devoted to gain, but still further, 
from the differences of religion, they had accustomed them- 
selves to look with ridicule and buffoonery on those great 
subjects, which the Italians executed with the utmost pos- 
sible sobriety and unction. Although the Hollanders in this 
procedure ultimately disqualified themselves for serious pur- 
suits in the arts, yet as the human capacity is seldom disap- 
pointed, when it will perseveringly apply, I shall, under the 
divisions of my subject in the subsequent discourses, have 
occasion to advert to many excellencies, which might be 
studied with great profit in the works of some distinguished 
characters in the Dutch school. 

As to the pursuits in art of our own people, they have 
been pretty extensively considered in an inquiry, which I 
published in 1775, and in a subsequent account, which was 
intended as a supplement.* I have little to say in addition 
to what has been there urged. Our religious distractions in 
the reigns of Charles I. and the succeeding Stuarts, and the 
(perhaps necessary) party enterprises since, have either for 
their own furtherance or opposition to their rivals, almost 
wholly absorbed the public attention, and have been such an 
occupation to all our leading men and great families, as left 
the arts but little to expect either from their taste or their 

Patronage and encouragement had on the contrary been 

* An Enquiry into the Real and Imaginary Obstructions to the Acquisi- 
tion of the Arts in England. Works, 1809, vol. ii. p. 167. — W. 

g 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

shamefully wasted in defacing every species of national 
worth. In the last reign, to nse the words of one of the 
greatest ornaments this country has to boast, " It appears 
from the report of the secret committee for inquiring into 
the conduct of Robert Earl of Orford, that no less than 
fifty thousand, seventy- seven pounds, eighteen shillings, 
were paid to authors and printers of newspapers, such as 
Free Britons, Daily Courants, Corncutters' Journals, Gazet- 
teers, and other political papers, between Feb. 10. 1731, and 
Feb. 10. 1741 ; which shows the benevolence of one great 
minister to have expended, for the current dulness of ten 
years, double the sum which gained Louis XIV. so much 
honour, during a reign of seventy, in annual pensions to 
learned men all over Europe." 

In such a state of things, it is no wonder that but little 
can be said of our native predecessors in the art. The 
le Brims, Pugets, Audrans, Edelinks, and all the rest of the 
glorious constellation of great characters, that at so small an 
expense diffused a lustre over France, equal to any the 
world had ever known, might, had it been their fortune to 
have been born in our islands, have withered away without 
honour, without pension, and without notice. 

Under the reign of his present Majesty, our most Gra- 
cious Patron, the arts were, in some measure, raised out of 
that disgraceful obscurity, in which they had been so long 
buried ; and a Royal Academy was instituted under the 
king's immediate protection, for the purpose of bringing 
forward that great line of historical, superior art ; from the 
successful prosecution of which only, the king and the 
public can expect to see its reputation worthy their 

Now, whether these gracious intentions of his Majesty, the 
wishes of the academicians, and the expectations of the 
public, may be disappointed or not — must entirely result 
from the generous ardour and unremitting labours of the 
students themselves. Inability and indolence may find 
opportunities of sheltering themselves in other employments, 
where mediocrity is sufferable ; and there are many such. 
The work of a bungling tailor, shoemaker, or such mecha- 
nics, may not be wholly without use, provided there be no 
fault in the stuff ; but in the polite arts, the stuff is of little 

LECT. I.] 



account, the wisdom and skill of the workman is all and 
every thing. It may therefore be prudent to consider in 
time, that the mere reputation of having frequented the 
schools of the Academy can be but a poor reliance for the 
man who shall neglect to have made a laborious and good 
use of them : and what is much worse, experience has long 
shown how much it is to be feared that the interest which 
must necessarily be taken by those, who have nothing to 
traffick with but bad or contracted abilities in art, will una- 
voidably draw after it the necessity of their becoming disin- 
genuous and bad men. Quackeries, and every species of 
dishonest, unmanly artifice must be continually recurred to, 
to recommend themselves, to acquire and to support a tem- 
porary reputation, and to pull down and prevent that of 
their rivals and more able competitors from taking its due 
course, and answering any national or useful purposes. Such 
manoeuvres may for a time dupe others, but in the end they 
must recoil back upon their authors, who will eventually 
find themselves the greatest dupes of all : for be it always 
remembered, that nothing but truth and real worth can be 
lasting. These only can be interesting to the world at 
large ; and the things, the actual works, must sooner or 
later speak for themselves, independently of all other 

But you, young gentlemen, who possess a noble ambition, 
and feel yourselves heartily actuated by a love for per- 
fection, you, I hope, will look with a becoming contempt 
and scorn on the lazy wretchedness of those who, unfaithful 
to their art, descend to the mean subterfuges of endeavouring 
to appear what they are not : you will proceed after quite a 
different manner, and generously relinquish whatever would 
obstruct the continued and necessary prosecution of your 
studies to the end. Your studies in the day, whilst you are 
at home, will be of the same nature with what you are 
employed about in the schools of the Academy, as your success 
will depend upon what is done at home under the eye of a 
skilful master, who will point out to you the proper method 
of applying what you may learn here, to the purposes of 
your own original composition. 

By thus devoting your whole lives to one uninterrupted 
pursuit after improvement, both in the theory and practice 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

of your art, you will in the end do honour to yourselves, by 
acquiring for your country that superior reputation in the 
arts also, which it has long since possessed in every thing 

In the next lecture (God willing) I shall offer to your 
consideration some remarks on Design. 

Lecture II. — On Design. 


In the preceding discourse I laid before you a view of the 
growth and progress of the arts, in the different ages and 
nations ; and it has evidently appeared through the whole 
course, and in every stage of this progress, that the same 
causes by which art was advanced or retarded, invigorated or 
corrupted, were equally operative in advancing or retarding, 
invigorating or corrupting the mental faculties, in every 
thing else that was truly valuable and worthy our esteem 
and praise. 

It is a vulgar error, that your art can ever derive any peculiar 
advantage from corruption and depravity ; — quite the re- 
verse ; those almost divine faculties of the mind, formed for 
the pursuit of the amiable, the admirable, and the perfect, 
which put forth and flourished in the free and intelligent 
nations, have, under meanness, ignorance, and oppressive 
tyranny, lain either totally dormant, or were reduced to a 
mere caput mortuum, divested of everything spiritual, sub- 
lime, and interesting. 

We shall now direct our attention towards the component 
parts of the art, beginning with Design, as the foundation 
and chief. 

It may be necessary previously to observe, that although 
in the executive part of the art very little, if anything, 
remains to be wished for in addition to what has been done 
by the ingenious men of the two last centuries ; yet it is 
universally acknowledged, by all intelligent people, that 
there is in the great monuments of Grecian art a strain of 




perfection, beauty, and sublimity, far beyond anything the 
moderns have produced. Endeavouring to account for this 
indubitable fact, some ingenious writers, of less knowledge 
than fancy, have enthusiastically supposed, that either the 
Grecian artists possessed intellects transcending the ordinary 
measure of modern capacity, or that they formed their works 
after living originals, of a perfection superior to anything 
now to be found. The futility of these suppositions I have 
endeavoured to show in a work*, published some years since, 
where it appears sufficiently evident, that all this observable 
superiority of the ancient Greeks over the moderns arose 
entirely from moral causes, and principally from the advan- 
tages of their education — that the arts at their resurrection 
in Italy were, for the most part, confined to the practice of 
mechanical, uneducated people, whose objects of pursuit were 
ordinary and unelevated ; but that, on the contrary, the Gre- 
cian artists were highly cultivated in their mental faculties, 
familiarised to the most subtle and refined philosophy, and 
appear to have considered the whole of created nature, with 
all its scattered perfections, but as a mere chaos and rude 
mass of incoherent materials, thrown together by the Great 
Creator for the exercise of those intellectual faculties he had 
bestowed upon man, — whom he had impressed with ideas of 
perfection and a capacity for combining them to a degree, to 
which individual nature might make some distant approaches, 
but at which it would never arrive. Hence have been derived 
all those masterly works of poetry, painting, and sculpture, 
which have filled the mind with astonishment, instruction, 
and pleasure ; and which will ever remain unequalled by 
those who do not draw their materials from the same source. 

These remains of Grecian perfection are collected in 
academies and places of study ; yet from the mere imitation 
of them but little can be expected. We must be able to 
investigate the principles upon which those statues were 
constructed, and adopt the same mode of study in our own 
pursuit and imitation of nature, or we labour to no purpose. 

But as the doing of this comprehends the very essence of 
design, which is the subject of our inquiry this night, I 

* An Enquiry into the Real and Imaginary Obstructions to the Acquisi- 
tion of the Arts in England. — By James Barry, Royal Academician, 
and Member of the Clementine Academy of Bologna. — Becket t 1775. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

shall endeavour to trace out the essential principles of design 
in that common nature, where, though they have been over- 
looked, they have always existed ; and where our own country 
will furnish us with materials equal to any enjoyed by the 
Greeks, or by people better than the Greeks, if any such 
ever were. But as this important matter of design embraces 
almost all that is intellectual in the art, is intimately associ- 
ated with, and indeed arises from, the most secret sources 
of the human mind, and heart, it will be impossible for 
us to search it too deeply. 

By the word design, taken in its most comprehensive 
sense, is understood the idea, scheme, or conception, which a 
workman or artist endeavours to express. 

This great genus comprehends all arts whatever. But in 
the family of the imitative arts, the idea, conception, or 
scheme of the artist can be no otherwise expressed than by an 
imitation of visible objects, and of the story, action, circum- 
stance, or occasion which unites them together. Design, then, 
in these arts, is that conception which is expressed by the 
artificial arrangement and imitation of such natural objects 
as either do, or might possibly exist. It is effected in the 
painter's art by imitating the forms, colours, and proportional 
arrangement of natural objects. In sculpture, by the imita- 
tion of proportion and form only. Architecture, as it copies 
no natural archetype, cannot be considered as an imitative 
art in its necessary and essential parts, but in the mere em- 
bellishment and ornaments only, where it is obliged to have 
recourse to the painter's or the sculptor's art. 

Imitations (to use the words of one of the most profound 
and wisest of men) differ from each other in three things ; 
either because in general they imitate with different means ; 
or different objects; or differently, and not in the same 
manner. Since they who imitate copy living characters, 
there is a necessity to exhibit us, either better ; as we are ; 
or worse. The painter Polygnotus made his pictures hand- 
somer ; and Pauson more deformed ; but Dionysius copied 
nature as he found it.* Homer made men better ; Cleophon 

* Aristotle (Poetica, c. 2.). His words are, TloXtiyvwros fiev Kpslrrovs* 
TlavGwv 5e xeipovs, Aiovvaios 8e Sfioiovs ei/cafe: "Polygnotus paints men 
better than they are, Pauson worse, and Dionysius as they are." This 
was Dionysius of Colophon ; Pauson is not otherwise known. — W. 




like ; whereas Hegemon and Nicocharis made them worse. 
It may be here worth observing, that in the mere imitation 
of individual ordinary nature, nothing is required but the 
skill and accuracy of the eye and hand only ; whereas in the 
imitation with that selection which endeavours to make 
things better, the exertions of the imagination and judgment 
(the two highest powers of the mind) are absolutely necessary 
in order to obtain that consistent, perfect, and extraordinary 
totality which constitutes the perfection of the art, and upon 
which only the artist can ground his title to genius, and be 
considered as the maker, inventor, or creator of his works ; 
for, as Aristotle observes, some pages after the passage above 
quoted, " It appears plainly that the poet's business is not to 
speak the things that have happened ; but such as might 
have been, and are possible, according to likelihood and 
necessity. For the historian and poet differ, not because 
they write in verse or in prose ; but they differ in this, that 
the former in reality speaks the things that have been ; the 
latter, those which might be. Poetry, therefore, doubtless 
affords greater scope than history for sublimity and the 
display of wisdom." 

This selection is as indispensably the business of the painter 
and sculptor, as of the poet. Their several imitations, which 
are equally intended to display beauty, sublimity, and wis- 
dom, ought to have nothing to do with imperfection and 
unfitness, either in the choice of the objects themselves, of 
their several component parts, or in the fable, story, or action 
in which they are employed. 

These admirable qualities of beauty, sublimity, and wisdom, 
so essentially requisite in the design of a great artist, can 
only be found in abstract or general nature; and when 
found and united by the skill of the artist, they are easily 
and with pleasure recognised by all men : for our ideas of 
the several species of sensible objects, and the generally 
relative proportion of their component parts with each other, 
and with the whole together, must necessarily be much more 
perfect than our own particular ideas can be, respecting those 
relatives in fleeting and transitory individuals ; in other words, 
we are much better acquainted with man or horse in its ge- 
neral structure, than we can possibly be with respect to the 
particular or peculiar fabrication of this or that individual 


babry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

man or horse. When, for instance, we judge of that noble 
animal the horse, who is not struck with the large, clear, and 
brisk eye, full of fire, the lean head, large open nostrils, the 
arched neck, the chest and shoulders well divided and square, 
the flank and thighs fleshy and thick, large ham, and the 
shanks sharp, sinewy, and detached ? How readily, and how 
generally do we recognise the contrary qualities as faults, — 
the dull, muddy, inanimate eye ; the heavy head ; drooping, 
hollow neck, thin flanks ; and gummy legs ! 

The excesses and deficiencies in the human form do not 
escape even the most vulgar observation ; their disapproba- 
tion, however coarsely, yet is strongly and accurately ex- 
pressed by the homely phrases of squabbish and short, slim 
and tall, the hatchet or the pudding face, rabbit shoulders, 
pot belly, spindle shanks, knocked or baker knees, club feet, 
porterlike, tailorlike, and so forth. These epithets indicate 
sensations exceedingly complex ; and it is well known that in 
ages less civilised, men were generally nicknamed from ex- 
cesses and deficiencies much less obvious. In short, general 
ideas are the first ideas we acquire ; we know the species 
before we know the individual ; and children, as Aristotle 
observes, will call every woman mother for some time. 

In all individuals, of every species, there is necessarily a 
visible tendency to a certain point or form. In this point or 
form the standard of each species rests. The deviations 
from this, either by excess or deficiency, are of two kinds : 
first, deviations indicating a more peculiar adaptation to cer- 
tain characters of advantage and utility, such as strength, 
agility, and so forth ; even mental as well as corporeal, since 
they sometimes result from habit and education, as well as 
from original conformation. In these deviations are to be 
found those ingredients which, in their composition and 
union, exhibit the abstract or ideal perfection in the several 
classes or species of character. The second kind of devia- 
tion is that which, having no reference to any thing useful 
or advantageous, but rather visibly indicating the contrary, 
as being useless, cumbersome, or deficient, is considered as 
deformity ; and this deformity will be always found different 
in the several individuals, by either not being in the same 
part, in the same manner, or in the same degree. The 
points of agreement which indicate the species are, therefore, 




many ; of difference which indicate the deformity, few. 
Hence it is that this common tendency to the general form, 
those characteristic and specific deviations, and those devia- 
tions of inutility and deformity are sooner seen, and more 
extensively observed upon, than has been generally imagined; 
for it is one thing in children and uneducated people to feel 
those sensations, and another to speak accurately about what 
they feel. 

The mere animal powers of man are in themselves capable 
of calculating with great subtilty, and must necessarily chain 
together a vast number of experiences to perform even the 
ordinary actions of life. The preserving an equilibrium in 
an erect posture, the walking and running, stooping and rais- 
ing, &c, are all progressional in the acquirement, and result 
from an infinitude of experiences which it is impossible to 
retrace. In vain should the equilibrist, the tumbler, or the 
fencer attempt to lay before you these unobserved, though 
certain calculations by which the peculiar muscles were go- 
verned which so accurately concurred in the performance of 
their several feats. When we reflect on the complication of 
these and all the other unobserved calculations in human 
exertions, where the directions and degrees of force, the 
qualities of the material, and the expected powers and direc- 
tions of resistance are so accurately and instantaneously com- 
bined, it ought to teach us a proper caution not to be too 
ready to fix limits to what we may call rude, unlettered 
sensation, especially in matters equally present and interest- 
ing to the most vulgar, as well as to the most refined. 

Of this kind is the matter now before us respecting the 
standard or perfect form of our species. Self-love, of which 
every one participates more or less, must inevitably give a 
more than ordinary ardour to our critical and discriminating 
spirit in this matter. We are equally averse from overlook- 
ing our own excellence or advantages, or the want of them 
in others ; hence, the comparative ideas of bad, worse, and 
worst. Good, better, and best are bandied about through all 
ranks of society, and nothing can be more evident than that 
every particle of this, even in the most illiterate minds, must 
unquestionably be referred to a standard. This standard is 
no otherwise different in the learned and the illiterate but in 
the degree : they travel together the same road, but the one 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

perhaps may go farther than the other, according to their 
faculties and application. This is the true state of all 
genuine judgment, freed from that impertinence which is 
called affectation. 

In complex objects these judgments appear frequently to 
differ, but, upon a close examination, this difference will be 
found to have existed in appearance only, and not in reality ; 
for they mean either not the same things or the same quali- 
ties, or the same degree or the same manner of the things. 
For example, a picture of Michelangelo shall be admired and 
condemned by different spectators ; but there is no difference 
of judgment : the attention of the one is employed upon what 
the picture possesses, of the other spectator upon what it 

There is a strange passage in one of Lord Bacon's essays 
respecting this principle of selection from aggregate nature, 
which is very unworthy his fine and penetrating genius. 
The passage is as follows : — "In beauty, that of favour is 
more than that of colour, and that of decent and gracious 
more than that of favour. That is the best part of beauty 
which a picture cannot express ; no, nor the first sight of 
the life. There is no excellent beauty that hath not some 
strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether 
Apelles or Albert Diirer were the more trifler ; whereof the 
one would make a personage by geometrical proportions, the 
other by taking the best parts out of divers faces, to make one 
excellent.* Such personages, I think, would please nobody 
but the painter that made them. Not but I think a painter 
may make a better face than ever was, but he must do it by 
a kind of felicity, as a musician that maketh an excellent air 
in music, and not by rule. A man shall see faces that, if 
you examine them part by part, you shall never find a good ; 
and yet altogether do well." 

On this passage I shall just observe, that though it be true 

* This observation would apply rather to Zeuxis than Apelles, con- 
cerning whom I am not aware of any story to the point. Zeuxis, how- 
ever, it is well known, selected five of the most beautiful virgins of 
Croton, in order to paint from them a figure of Helen, for the temple of 
Juno Lacinia at that place. And from the great renown of this picture 
throughout the ancient world, the plan adopted by the painter appears to 
have been eminently successful. — W. 




that this excellent beauty may (as he observes) have some 
strangeness in the proportion, yet it does not follow but that 
this disproportion or strangeness might be happily avoided 
by a judicious artist, whilst that which is beautiful was alone 
imitated. As to the faces good only in the whole result, and 
not in the parts, it is the proportionate arrangement only 
that pleases, and not the disagreeable particulars. Nature is 
here, as the Italians feelingly express it, but ben sbozzata, 
well sketched out : adequate finishing is wanting. The busi- 
ness of art is harmoniously to unite the beautiful parts of the 
former with this beautiful proportionate arrangement of the 
latter; and if Lord Bacon had understood the subject better, 
he would have found that it was by this conduct only (which 
he had unwarily condemned in Apelles) that any true beauty 
could be produced, which should be no less admirable in its 
several component parts than in the proportionate and 
harmonious arrangement of the whole together. As to the 
possibility of producing any excellence by those happy 
dashes which resemble the musical felicity, they may perhaps, 
according to the old story of the painted horse, be allowed to 
effect something in the imitation of froth and bubble, but 
that is all. However, the ignorance of our admirable Bacon 
in matters of this kind was very excusable at a time when, 
from the mistaken notions of religion, all elevated and artist- 
like exertions were proscribed in his country, where the 
wretched business of face-painting bounded the national 

Painting being an art which, in its executive part, requires 
such a long and laborious process, it lias unavoidably been 
oftener exercised by the mere sordid mechanic, divested of 
intellectual capacity, than by the philosopher and man of a 
genius for ethical and refined views. 

The union of these qualities of intellectual vigour and 
mechanical laborious assiduity, which it is easy to see can 
but rarely happen, is, however, absolutely necessary for pro- 
ducing such works as can enable us to make a just estimation 
of the powers of the art. Lord Bacon, then, whose active 
and contemplative pursuits could afford him but little occa- 
sion for any knowledge of this art, and whose ideas of it 
could only be drawn from the portraits of Holbein, and such 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. n. 

like miserable exemplars*, was likely enough to fall into the 
above mistake. He was entirely out of the way of every 
thing which could have undeceived him — the cartoons of 
Raphael, his Camera della Segnatura, his Transfiguration, 
and the other works of the great Italians, he was an utter 
stranger to ; and, above all, the Grecian statues, which would 
have flashed immediate evidence in his face, it was his 
fortune never to have seen. Had this truly illustrious man 
possessed those advantages, his great sagacity would have 
made a salutary application of the admirable general princi- 
ples which he has himself laid down respecting one of those 
imitative arts. Speaking of poetry, he remarks most admi- 
rably and justly — "The use of this fained historie hath 
been to give some shadow of satisfaction to the mind of man 
in those points wherein the nature of things doth denie it, 
the world being in proportion inferior to the soule : by reason 
whereof there is agreeable to the spirit of man a more ample 
greatnesse, a more exact goodnesse, and a more absolute 
variety than can be found in the nature of things. There- 
fore, because the acts or events of true historie have not that 
magnitude which satisfieth the mind of man, poesie faineth 
acts and events greater and more heroical ; because true his- 
torie propoundeth the successes and issues of actions not so 
agreeable to the merits of virtue and vice, therefore poesie 
fains them more just in retribution, and more according to 
revealed providence. Because true historie representeth 
actions more ordinarie and less interchanged, there poesie 
endueth them with more rarenesse and more unexpected and 
alternate variations. So as it appeareth that poesie serveth 
and conferreth to magnanimitie, moralitie, and to delectation. 
And therefore it was ever thought to have some participa- 
tion of divinenesse, because it doth raise and erect the mind, 
by submitting the show of things to the desires of the mind, 
whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind to the nature 
of things. And we see that by these insinuations and con- 
gruities with man's nature and pleasure, it hath had access 

* Few will admit that the good works of Holbein are miserable ex- 
amples of portraiture, even of what art is capable of. Holbein was not 
the painter of all that is attributed to him ; but there are works by 
him, as the Dresden Madona, for instance, which are noble examples 
of art. — W. 




and estimation in rude times and barbarous regions, where 
other learning stood excluded." 

In this admirable manner Lord Bacon reasons about an 
art which he understood ; and (but that reading can be of 
little use where exemplars do not exist) he might have 
known, that a no less pertinent application of the same rea- 
soning had been long since made to painting and sculpture 
by the people, who of all others best understood these arts 
in their full and comprehensive extent. 

Xenophon says, that when Socrates* had occasion to dis- 
course with artists, his conversation was of great advantage to 
them. For example, happening to go to Parrhasius the painter,, 
he discoursed with him of his art to this purpose : " What is 
painting, Parrhasius ? is it not an imitation of visible objects, 
for do you not express or represent by colours the concave 
and the eminent, the obscure and the enlightened, the hard 
and soft, the rough and smooth, the new and old, and in line 
all sorts of objects, and all the various appearances of na- 
ture? But when you propose to imitate beautiful forms r 
since for instance it is not easy to find any one person, all 
whose members are absolutely faultless, do you not select 
from many human bodies those parts which are best propor- 
tioned and most beautiful in each ; and by combining them 
make whole figures that are beautiful throughout ? Do you 
not represent likewise what is most engaging, most lovely, 
and most desirable in the person, I mean, the disposition of 
the soul — for do not the very looks confess either malice or 
good will ? In the prosperity of our friends, our looks are 
gay and full of joy, but in their adversity Ave look cloudy 
and dejected. Besides, doth not a noble and liberal spirit, 
or a mean and ignoble one, a prudent and well governed 
mind, or a petulant and dissolute one, discover itself in the 
countenance, air, and gesture of men, and all these differ- 
ences can be expressed by imitation?" "They can," re- 
plies Parrhasius. " Which, then, do you think," says So- 
crates, " do men behold with greatest pleasure and satisfac- 
tion, the representations by which good, beautiful, and lovely 

* Socrates was himself a sculptor by education ; a Mercury and a 
draped marble group of the Graces by him, are noticed by Pausanias 
(i. 22. ), as standing in the Propylaca, leading to the Acropolis, at 
Athens. — \V. 

h 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

manners are expressed, or those which exhibit the base, 
deformed, corrupt, and hateful?" " There is no comparison 
between them," said the artist.* 

Three things are observable in those remarks of Socrates : 
first, that painting is capable of giving a true image or like- 
ness of every visible object ; secondly, that in the imitation 
of visible objects, a wise selection from general nature be 
used which has a reference to what is admirable, fit, and 
proper only; and lastly, this divine man, according to his 
usual custom, does not forget to intimate ^that the true 
dignity of art consists in being advantageous to morality and 
the interests of mankind, by exhibiting the deformity of 
vice, and the beauties of virtue. 

I have been the longer on this article of the absolute 
necessity of making a judicious selection in the objects of 
your imitation, and of directing your attention to the species 
in each walk of character, rather than to the individual, be- 
cause in this consists the very essence of design. To carry 
it on with success will indeed require your utmost attention, 
added to a considerable expanse of previous education : but 
it will be worth your pains, as it is from hence only that 
you can be enabled to give a loose to the fervour of your 
disposition, to be original with dignity and with safety, to 
avoid being a mere vulgar and uninteresting Dutch copyist 
on the one hand, or, what is worse, a plunderer, plagiarist, 
and second-hand imitator on the other. How many ad- 
mirable things do w^e find in the antique, in Raphael, and in 
Poussin, which are regarded with a just contempt, when by 
plagiarism and second-hand imitation they are transplanted 
from their natural soil, and separated from the action, cir- 
cumstance, or occasion, which gave them vigour and value. 

Having considered the kind and manner of imitation 
proper to design, we shall now attend more particularly to 
the things imitated; and first to beauty. 

Whether our standard or abstract ideas of beauty, order, 
and goodness, result solely and immediately (by a kind of 
arithmetical calculation) from the mere exercise of our con- 
templative powers on external objects; or whether the result 
of our contemplation of those external objects goes any 
further than to furnish us with the necessary media for the 
* Xenophon, Memorabilia, iii. 10. — W. 


recognition of a former and more perfect knowledge of those 
interesting qualities which the soul might have enjoyed in a 
prior and more perfect state, are questions of difficult de- 
termination. But in whatever manner our beneficent Crea- 
tor has impressed us with those superior ideas, there can be 
no doubt of the reality of their existence in our minds. 
We are so evidently formed to distinguish the true and to 
love the good, that it is utterly impossible for us not to 
assent (internally at least) to the objects both of the one and 
the other, when they are fairly proposed to us ; and not- 
withstanding that just and candid men only speak and act in 
an entire conformity with this evidence ; yet even in others, 
who seem to contradict it, they are only seeming and appear- 
ances, by which they would deceive us ; for even the most 
envious and selfish are ready enough to acknowledge this 
true, beautiful, and amiable in all matters, where their self- 
love, personal interests, passions, and vanities, are not con- 
cerned ; as in the virtues and excellence of the great cha- 
racters of past ages, or distant countries ; or even nearer 
home, when those virtues are out of the sphere of their own 

Thus the recognition of these interesting qualities is 
natural and common to all, in proportion to the attention 
employed upon them ; and it is no argument to the contrary 
that the consequences which result from this recognition in 
different minds, do but too often afford us a spectacle of 
melancholy and shocking contrariety ; since that which 
serves as a foundation for admiration and affection to a good 
and generous heart, will, from the selfish and the envious, 
excite nothing but hatred, malignity, and a disposition to 

The recognition of these qualities is however the same in 
both cases, and the difference of the reception it meets with, 
seems to arise from the generosity or selfishness, the good- 
ness or the malignity of the heart only. 

The disposition and capacity to distinguish and interest 
ourselves in the true, the beautiful, the good, and the great, 
were given us as a rule and law, continually to point out 
that election and conduct which is most becoming and most 
conformable to our nature as moral agents ; and nothing can 
be more certain, than that the interest we take in all the 

H 3 


barey's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

objects which surround us, is (caeteris paribus) in an exact 
proportion to the number and degree of those qualities, 
whether considered singly or combined. 

As to beauty, prudence may and often does incline us to 
hesitate in our election of the greater or lesser degree of it, 
in proportion to the association of those degrees of beauty 
with other valuable or worthless qualities. These ideas of 
beauty, order, and goodness, have an intimate and almost 
immediate reference to each other in the mind ; as absolute 
and complete satisfaction can only result from the perfect 
union of all these qualities in their highest degree. There- 
fore it is, that the pleasure which we receive in the con- 
templation of human nature (where beauty may be in a 
high degree united with those other qualities) is much 
greater than that which results from the contemplation of 
beauty in all the species of animal, vegetable, or other ob- 
jects, where moral agency does not exist : and yet, such is 
the innate force or power of mere beauty, even in the lowest 
order of beings, that the particular perfections discoverable 
amongst quadrupeds, birds, fishes, trees, and flowers, are 
sure to excite in us agreeable sensations, and incline us to a 
predilection and choice, of which those irrational beings ap- 
pear utterly unconscious and insensible. 

There is, then, a beautiful which is positive, essential, and 
independent of national or temporary institutions or opinions. 
This immutable, and (if I may be allowed the expression) 
eternal beauty is widely different from those arbitrary, 
local, temporary notions of beauty which have a kind of 
occasional currency under the terms ton, fashion, or mode ; 
and, like particular languages, are ever fluctuating and un- 
stable, always different amongst the different nations, and 
in the different ages of the same nation. This false beauty, 
which roots itself in affectation, has nothing to do with 
genuine, legitimate art, and is no otherwise worth mention 
here, than to point it out as a quick-sand, where many in- 
genious artists have been sunk for ever. It cannot there- 
fore be too studiously avoided, for though a conformity with 
those temporary modes may gratify our employers, and the 
circle around them, and consequently be advantageous to 
what we may call our interest, yet it must lose us the ad- 
miration of men of sound judgment in all times ; and all the 




future frivolities will have fashionable affectations and beau- 
ties of their own, quite different from those upon which our 
attention had been wasted. 

Another source of confusion, though less general in its 
influence, arises from the sensuality which some people mix 
with their ideas of beauty. A high degree of the luscious, 
the languid — a simper, or leer — though associated with 
ordinary qualities, will, with them outweigh all other perfec- 
tions of body or mind. However, the judgment of those 
voluptuaries has but little weight with the bulk of mankind : 
like misers absorbed in one particular passion, they are re- 
garded as blind and dead to every thing else. But the 
beautiful, which makes so essential a part in the design of 
a great artist, is, and must be, founded on the unalterable 
nature of things, and independent of all particular disposi- 

Men have differed more in their definition and manner of 
explaining beauty, than in their ideas of it. According to 
the definitions generally given, beauty consists of unity and 
gradual variety ; or unity, variety, and harmony. This may 
be admitted as true, at least as far as it goes : but it is 
neither full nor satisfactory ; for though it be certain that 
unity and variety are found in beautiful objects of all kinds, 
— in flowers, fruits, in the several species of animals as well 
as in human nature — yet it is equally certain that they are 
compounded differently, and that though in any one of these 
species we may further increase the variety, or simplify the 
unity, yet we should not proportionably add to the beauty, 
but the contrary. 

Man, as a totality, comprehends a greater variety of visi- 
ble parts than the female, and yet surely he is not more 
beautiful. We should not increase the beauty of the female 
bosom by the addition of another protuberance ; and the 
exquisite undulating transitions from the convex to the con- 
cave tendencies, could not be multiplied with any success. 
In fine, our rule forjudging of the mode and degree of this 
combination of variety and unity, seems to be no other than 
that of its fitness* and conformity to the designation of 
each species. 

* This is well observed ; in nature and in art fitness of a creature or 
object to the uses for which it is designed, is assuredly the essential of all 

h 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

What we admire in the one, would shock us if it were 
transferred to the other. The variety and union of parts, 
which we call beautiful in a greyhound, are pleasing in con* 
sequence of the idea of agility which they convey. In 
other animals, less agility is united with more strength ; 
and indeed all the different arrangements please, because 
they indicate either different qualities, different degrees of 
qualities, or the different combinations of them. 

In all the beauties of colour, diffused so bountifully over 
the objects which surround us, if they have no other designa- 
tion, there is at least this which respects the governing 
animal : those colours delight man by their sprightliness and 
vivacity, when pure and in a strong degree ; and with their 
tenderness, softness, and delicacy, when mixt and com- 
pounded, or even when single, in a degree less forcible. 

These properties of colour, simply considered, may be 
thought to differ from the other kinds of beauty, as being 
more an object of sense, than of the intellect : but it is 
remarkable, that even in colour there is a choice and selec- 
tion ; for colours are either clear and beautiful, or muddy, 
adulterate, or disagreeable ; besides colours, whether simple 
or compounded, are either of a deep, strong tint, or hue, or 
they are weak and feeble. They are also seen either in a 
stronger or a fainter light, and they are ever the inseparable 
adjuncts of those beings and forms, where the intellectual 
estimates are more immediately concerned. 

From the whole of what has been urged, it is very evi- 
dent that Beauty and Perfection are but different names for 
the same thing ; and, consequently, the most beautiful form 
of body must be that, which in all its qualities most per- 
fectly corresponds with the idea we have of its species, of 
whatever kind, sex, or age. 

Pure simple beauty or perfection, being equally adapted 
to all the several animal destinations proper to its species, is 
therefore equally removed from the several classes of cha- 
racter, which so evidently define and manifest their peculiar 
powers. Mere Beauty, then (though always interesting), is 
notwithstanding vague and indeterminate ; as it indicates no 
particular expression, either of body or mind. But it be- 

beauty. In all objects and creatures form is the primary of beauty, 
colour is accessory W. 




comes infinitely more powerful and fascinating, when it is 
in action, and associated with the Graces, its natural attend- 
ants ; which without altering any of the constituent beautiful 
parts, make the soul and sensations of the heart visible in 
the external figure ; and by their affecting sensibilities and 
happy transitions, produce in the whole together an air and 
aspect the most amiable, most tender, and the most endear- 
ing. Mere beauty being by a kind of natural accord pecu- 
liarly fitted for the reception of grace, as the true and 
animating principle of such a body, which, as it indicates 
no particular designation of power or character, seems re- 
served for the exercise of those graces, elegances, and ten- 
derness of the heart solely ; it is no wonder that the ancient 
Greeks (ever wise and ever admirable) made such an in- 
separable connection between Venus and the Graces, Agla'ia, 
Euphrosyne, and Thalia — Splendour, Sweetness, and Joy — 
(so I think those names have been translated)* locked hand 
in hand, harmoniously dancing round the goddess of beauty. 

Although the graceful is so eminently distinguishable, and 
carries with it such peculiar power in female action, yet it is 
by no means to be understood as confined to female action 
merely : for as grace is produced from that union and entire 
conformity between the tender sentiments of the heart and 
the corresponding mild and easy actions of the body, every 
action or movement of a perfect or beautiful body of either 
sex, or even of almost any species, where this union is visible, 
must be graceful. But grace is more eminently observable 
in the female, because, as was hinted before, their sensibility 
and tenderness are greater than that of the male, and the su- 
perior softness and delicacy of their bodily frame is more in 
unison with those tender sensations. 

A high degree of particular character cannot be super- 
induced upon pure or simple beauty without altering its con- 
stituent parts ; this is peculiar to grace only ; for particular 
characters consist, as has been observed before, in those de- 
viations from the general standard for the better purpose of 
effecting utility and power, and become so many species of a 
higher order ; where nature is elevated into grandeur, ma- 
jesty, and sublimity. 

There is, however, a general character distinguishable in 
* Splendour, Joy, and Pleasure. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

the sexes, as contrasted with each other. The whole and 
every part of the male form, generally taken, indicates an 
aptness and propensity to action, vigorous exertion, and 
power. In the female form the appearance is very different ; 
it gives the idea of something rather passive than active, and 
seems created not so much for the purposes of laborious uti- 
lity, as for the exercise of all the softer, milder qualities. 
How admirably does this gentleness of frame correspond with 
the mild and tender pursuits for which female nature was 
intended, in those numberless little affectionate attentions, 
maternal weaknesses, and condescensions, so necessary for the 
fostering and rearing up of the infant offspring ; and secondly, 
as a grateful haven of repose and serenity to the male, after 
those laborious and often vexatious exertions which the un- 
avoidable collision of his vigorous faculties and situation in 
society indispensably requires of him. Hence it appears 
that this superior tenderness and soft affecting sensibility, 
which are the source and true origin of all those easy, deli- 
cate, elegant transitions we distinguish by the epithet, grace- 
ful, and which seat beauty, as it were, on its proper throne 
in female nature, are only the legible, agreeable exteriors of 
necessary utility. This general characteristic discrimination 
is touched in a masterly manner by our great poet : — 

" For contemplation he, and valour formed ; 
For softness she, and sweet attractive grace ; 
More fair, more winning soft, more amiably mild." 

Thus, this wise and orderly arrangement of proportionate 
ends and means, which constitute the beautiful in all created 
objects, and the grateful sense of which is intellectual and 
peculiar to man — thus, this admirable arrangement is found 
to combine more and to increase in its value, as it rises 
through all the gradations, from the mere inanimate to the 
vegetative, to the animal, and to the highest degree of ra- 
tional nature ; where it becomes exquisite, and receives its 
ultimate completion from the visible indications of its union 
with the still higher qualities of the soul. 

The human frame being of all others calculated for the 
greatest variety of ends, the beautiful is there necessarily at 
its highest point ; and yet such is our innate sense of the su- 
perior nature, of moral excellence, and our absolute interest 




in its being the governing principle of rational agents, that 
we are as it were compelled to regard all this beauty not only 
as tasteless and insipid, but still further, as lying and contra- 
dictory, when it is not united with those exquisite sensations 
of a grateful sensibility, as it ought to be in the female ; and 
improved and heightened by vigorous exertion into some ad- 
mirable, generous, venerable character, in the other sex. 
We shall here stop our pursuit of beauty, as the next step 
would lead us into very awful considerations, to which 
our ideas of all the mundane arrangements of beauty, order, 
wisdom, and goodness, appear but as so many preparatory 
initiations. That matter I shall leave for those who can do 
it more justice, and content myself with observing, that we 
are evidently disappointed when the external form and in- 
terior disposition do not correspond, even in the regions of 
visionary beings. We hate Mezentius in the iEneid, though 
he has great bravery, many commanding, kingly qualities, 
and even great tenderness and affection for his son. But his 
tyranny, injustice, and cruelty sully all, and make the reader 
delight in his destruction. Polyphemus might be able to 
perform as many feats of strength as Hercules, but we detest 
his brutal, savage disposition, and reserve our love and ad- 
miration for the hero whose actions were directed by a hu- 
mane and generous philanthropy. It is this innate relish for 
".fitness and justice, that constitutes the charm which attaches 
young and unadulterated minds so strongly to romances. It 
is in vain that we observe upon the absurdities, the false geo- 
graphy, and the utter ignorance of times, usages, and all civil 
institutions, which have been jumbled together in these per- 
formances. These accessories detract nothing from our ad- 
miration. The wildest fictions pass ; the soul recognizes its 
true home and darling objects, when generosity, honour, 
fidelity, and the other amiable virtues are exhibited in all 
their Paradisiacal perfection : and notwithstanding our sub- 
sequent experience of the real facts of life presents us with 
a constitution of things exceedingly different and much worse; 
yet as this does not destroy the reality and congeniality of 
our feelings regarding this better state, and as they evidently 
both exist together, they equally co-operate to establish that 
incontrovertible truth of the exalted and debased nature of 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

man, which philosophy has seen, but which the Christian re- 
ligion only has explained. 

Nothing can be more uniform than the voice of mankind 
in all ages with respect to the constituent parts of amiable or 
hateful character ; and upon this foundation, as upon a rock, 
the artist, whether painter or poet, will, if he is wise, con- 
struct the edifice of his future fame. From the whole of what 
has been observed, it appears that utility or happiness is our 
aim in the predilection for beauty; that all exterior corporeal 
qualities have but little value, except from what they receive 
by their assimilation with the interior disposition ; that from 
the natural constitution of things, we are induced to pursue 
and covet the one from an expectation and persuasion of find- 
ing the other, and consequently that the real source of our 
enjoyment is spiritual, and ultimately rested upon the eleva- 
tion and magnanimity of the soul, or the mild and endearing 
qualities of the heart. The one is the only source of all ac- 
tion, motion, and gesture, that is distinguished by the term 
graceful The other of all true greatness, sublimity, and 
majesty of character and expression. 

The young student cannot bestow too much attention on 
these important truths ; for he may rest assured, that when 
the motion, gesture, action, or expression of his figures docs 
not correspond with their interior feelings and disposition (as 
must inevitably happen in all plagiarisms and transplanting 
of character), whatever else he can do will be foreign to the 
purpose, and must appear grimace, affectation, and false art. 

Taste being generally considered as a necessary ingredient, 
not only in the design of a great artist, but also in the judg- 
ment of an intelligent observer, it will not be foreign to our 
purpose to take some notice of its leading qualities. 

The word taste, as applied to objects of vision, is a meta- 
phor taken from our corporeal sense of tasting, and means in 
this metaphorical application, that quick discerning faculty 
or power of the mind, by which we accurately distinguish 
the good, bad, or indifferent — the beauty or deformity either 
in nature, or in the arts which imitate nature. As good taste, 
then, comprehends our relish for the true, the good, the beau- 
tiful, and the sublime, and our disapprobation of whatever 
does not participate of these estimable qualities in a becoming 
and just degree; and as the matter which must invigorate 




and perfect this intellectual sense can only be supplied by 
knowledge and judgment, it will necessarily be more or less 
perfect and exquisite, as our knowledge of the essential qua- 
lities is more or less accurate and extensive, and our judg- 
ment in the application of this knowledge more or less sound. 

The observations which have occurred in treating the pre- 
ceding articles of abstract or general nature, imitation by 
selection, beauty, character, and grace, applying so directly 
to the purposes of taste, and indeed forming the only sure 
rule by which its just estimates and appreciations can be go- 
verned, will make it unnecessary to dwell much longer on 
this matter. It has appeared clear and evident that this in- 
tellectual sense of taste is not a factitious quality, as some 
giddy sceptics have foolishly imagined. The vanity of low 
artists, and the presumption of superficial judges, will no 
doubt find an interest in readily coinciding with an opinion 
which levels all distinction between themselves and their bet- 
ters. But though the clatter of ignorance, misinformation, 
and vanity, cannot be silenced, yet it must and will be des- 
pised, for assuredly taste is as much an essential part of the 
mind of man, as the eyes and hands are of his body, and like 
these, is capable of a very high degree of accuracy and im- 
provement. It is also evident, that nature being all that 
really exists, or might possibly exist, and that taste having 
no legitimate object but this actual and possible nature, or 
that which by art is made to resemble it — it necessarily fol- 
lows, that a bad taste in the objects of art can only arise from 
a bad taste in the objects of nature : prejudice, affectation, 
and ignorance must operate equally in the production of both. 

This taste for the good, the beautiful, and the sublime of 
nature and art, as it is the same in both, and as it comprehends 
whatever is interesting to us in the moral as well as physical 
properties of things, affords an infinite variety of pursuit, ad- 
mirably accommodated to all the different genius and disposi- 
tions of men ; one class of artists and admirers of art pursuing 
the simple, others the serious, the pathetic, the great, the 
majestic, or the sublime, selecting some with more force, 
others with more grace, enforcing or combining each, accord- 
ing to its own proper sentiment. There is no department of 
art which might not become interesting in the hands of a man 
of sensibility. Who does not feel this in the landscapes of 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. iii 

N. Poussin ? sometimes verging to sublimity, and always en- 
gaging, from their characteristic unity, graceful simplicity, 
or ethical associations. Allowing for a little unnecessary 
rags and vulgarity, who is not also delighted with the sere- 
nity and innocent simplicity of many of the scenes of Berchem, 
Both, Claude, Swaneveld, and Wilson ? the simple, laborious, 
honest hinds ; the lowing herds, smooth lakes, and cool ex- 
tended shades; the snug, warm cot, sufficient and independent; 
the distant hamlet ; and the free, unconfined association be- 
tween all the parts of nature, must ever afford a grateful pro- 
spect to the mind. No doubt much of our satisfaction results 
from contrasting this state of things with the dark, insidious, 
hypocritical disguises ; the hateful enormities, vanities, affec- 
tations, and senseless pageantries, so frequently found in the 
courts of the great, and in large cities : and it is remarkable 
that even the elegant Virgil, with all his happy taste of rural 
beauty, had this contrast uppermost in his mind, when he 
burst out into that beautiful eulogium upon rural life^ in his 
second Georgic : 

" O Fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, 
Agricolas ! " * 

But as there will be more room to particularise in my fu- 
ture discourses, I shall resume my general reasoning, and 
observe, that all the varieties of excellence are but different 
portions of the same taste for the beautiful, the good, and the 
perfect. If these essential foundations of taste have been 
dressed up differently, according to the various usages of dif- 
ferent ages and nations ; these differences are only in the ac- 
cessories, but never in the foundation and essential properties 
of things, which must be ever and equally the same both in 
nature and art. The monuments of this taste have ever been 
a source of the most grateful, permanent satisfaction ; and 
whilst empires, nations, and all the great nothings of the 
world moulder and pass away, experience shows that we feel 
our hearts no otherwise interested or concerned about them, 
than to save out'of this general wreck whatever wears the 
impression of this taste for the beautiful, the good, and the 
perfect. There is in this matter something singularly con- 
genial with our nature : the sentiments and feelings by which 
* Geor. ii. 458. — W. 




men in all ages have been uniformly governed in their taste 
and relish for the good and the perfect, are sure, expeditious, 
and accompanied with a plenitude of evidence and satisfactory 
elucidation, which the mind seeks for in vain from all other 
objects of inquiry. We may still wander about, as we have 
done for three thousand years past, in fruitless speculations, 
concerning the primary elements whether they be many and 
distinct, or one and changeable ; whether the substratum that 
upholds sensible qualities called matter, can be said to have 
any real existence, independent of mind or intellect, since it 
neither is, nor can be, an object of our bodily sensations. The 
decision of these and other such questions of difficult and un- 
certain determination, is happily not necessary for our well 
being here : it is sufficient for us that we have no difficulty 
or embarrassment respecting those matters w T hich regard the 
real end of our designation and happiness : we are at no 
loss to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad; 
and we are peculiarly blessed with this taste, sentiment, or 
passion, for all the kinds of excellence communicated to man 
alone, as a principle for moral agency and divine approxi- 
mation, by which he is distinguished from all the species of 
brute, irrational animals. 

Thus much for our intellectual faculty called taste, which 
is one and the same in nature and the arts ; a highly im- 
proved and cultivated taste, or one gross and corrupt, being 
equally operative in influencing our approbation or disappro- 
bation of the imitated or the natural objects. 

The best and surest method which can be recommended to 
the student for acquiring the theory and practice of this 
good taste in the arts, is heartily to dissociate and estrange 
himself from all meanness and servility of pursuit ; as this 
will best enable him to enter wholly and con amove into the 
investigation of the grand, interesting, and perfect of nature, 
as well moral as physical, since his art is equally concerned 
in both. Such an art, therefore, which has for its true object 
to advance the interests of mankind, by placing the cause of 
virtue and real heroism in the most forcible, efficacious, and 
amiable light — such an art does indeed require all the eleva- 
tion and dignity of soul and disposition the student can pos- 
sibly bring to it. To produce great and noble sensations in 
others, to exalt their minds, and excite them to the pursuit 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. n. 

of the honestum, the Jit, the becoming, the heroic, and truly 
laudable part, whatever struggles and labour it may cost 
them, and however powerfully opposed and surrounded 
by dangers and present obloquy. Successfully to excite men 
to this, the students must begin with themselves, and culti- 
vate the man, as well as the artist ; for be it ever remem- 
bered, that though the head may conceive, and the hand 
execute, yet it is the heart only which can infuse unction, 
energy, and vigour into your work — the generous ardour 
that you will communicate to others will be always propor- 
tionate to the noble flame which exists in your own bosoms. 

I have omitted to speak of invention, because it can hardly 
be considered as an acquirable quality ; since the vigour, 
spirit, and felicity of invention are the peculiar emanations 
of that genius which shall be in vain sought for where 
heaven has not bestowed it. But although invention must 
derive its existence from genius, yet, if there be no other 
qualities to nourish and support it than mere genius, it must 
infallibly run to weeds, and will be productive rather of ex- 
travagance and capricious folly than of any thing sound and 
excellent ; for the daring inventive faculties of a vivid aspir- 
ing genius indispensably require, more than any thing else, 
to be powerfully sustained by that provident wisdom and 
solid judgment which can only arise from an extensive 
knowledge of the nature, properties, and relations of things. 

How admirably is the capacious and sublime invention of 
Homer sustained by his vast, comprehensive knowledge, and 
his sound, judicious application of this knowledge in the 
formation of all those creatures of his fancy, which have been 
ever regarded with so much delight and utility, and were 
imitated as so many models of perfection by the legislators, 
heroes, and all the great characters of antiquity ! 

This foundation of extensive knowledge and judgment, so 
indispensably necessary to support poetic invention, is not 
only equally necessary in your art, but, still farther, there 
is absolutely required from you an accuracy of investigation, 
and a laborious prosecution, not at all wanting in poetry. As 
this matter is curious in its nature, and relates to the essence 
of our subject, it will be no digression to observe that poetry, 
when compared with painting, appears to be attended with 
but few difficulties of execution, and requires but little accu- 




rate knowledge of the exterior forms, except in a few of the 
leading characteristic features : as all the detailed particulars 
are left to be supplied by the reader how he can. When the 
conception of the subject and all its parts are secured, what 
remains is only language, always at command, and conti- 
nually exercised by the poet and his readers through the 
whole of life. On the contrary, when the painter, in com- 
mon with the poet, has completed the conception of his sub- 
ject, the difficulties of execution, which must embody and 
substantiate this conception, present a scene altogether 
foreign to ordinary pursuit. Here he has occasion for all the 
several circumstantial knowledges of the forms and properties 
of his objects, the things which necessarily accompany them, 
together with the infinite variety of their aspects, positions, 
degrees of illumination and distance, a great part of which 
can only be known from an intimate acquaintance with the 
various arts and sciences. In fact, the labour and accumu- 
lated observation necessary to execute an extensive concep- 
tion in painting is so immense, so various, and so foreign to 
the ordinary pursuits of life, that it is no wonder if the few 
examples of perfection which have appeared in this way, 
were ever regarded by the intelligent as the highest reaches 
of the human capacity, whilst the more ignorant were but too 
ready to believe them of still higher origin. 

The pleasure which we receive from poetry is, as has been 
observed, limited by the language of each country ; it is also 
still further limited in the degree even in the same country ; 
because the words of the poet do not communicate the same 
ideas to men differently cultivated. " The heavenly eye, 
graceful step, and gestures of dignity and love " of Milton's 
Eve do not exhibit the same image and configuration of parts 
at St. James's, in the Royal Academy, and at Wapping. The 
perfections of form in the painters figures do not, like those 
of poetry, depend upon the narrow compass of the spectator's 
mind : the figure in painting and sculpture is actually pro- 
duced, and in its highest and most cultivated degree of con- 
ception, and completed in all its parts. The natural inference 
which follows from this consideration of completeness and 
actual existence (and, which is wonderful, should have escaped 
the discernment of so many ingenious writers), authorizes me 
to afiirm that painting is not, as has been said, a silent poem, 



barhy's lectures. 

[lect. m 

and poetry a speaking picture ; but, much more truly, that 
painting is poetry realised, and that full, complete, and per- 
fect poetry is indeed nothing more than an animated account 
or relation of the mere conception of a picture. What were 
the few touches about the brows and hair of Homer's Jove, 
when compared with that wonder of the world, the statue of 
Phidias at Olympia ? What ideas must have been entertained 
of this statue, when the inquiry was, whether Jove came 
down to show himself to Phidias, or whether Phidias had 
been carried up to see J o ve ? * The twanging of Apollo's 
bow-string, when inflicting plagues on the Greeks — what 
ideas can this passage communicate to the bulk of readers, 
equal to what is produced by a single glance at the Apollo 
in the Belvedere ? f The Laocoon, though in the hands of the 
judicious and admirable Yirgil — yet what has he, or could 
he produce, which may be compared with the stupendous 

* The sitting Colossal statue of Jupiter, at Olympia in Elis, by- 
Phidias, was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world; it was 
made exteriorly of ivory and gold ; the accessory parts were adorned with 
paintings by Panaenus, and the whole was decorated to the utmost ca- 
pabilities of art. ( See an attempted restoration in the Jupiter Olympien, 
of Quatremere de Quincy.) This statue was made, according to Miiller 
and others, immediately after the completion of the Minerva of the Par- 
thenon, at Athens, 438 b. c, and was finished in 433 b. c, a year only 
before the death of Phidias. This great sculptor died in prison, at 
Athens ; the ostensible cause of his imprisonment was an accusation of 
impiety, in consequence of his having introduced his own likeness in the 
basso-rilievo of the shield of the Minerva. He is said to have done this 
because he was not allowed to inscribe his name upon the statue: the 
Eleans suffered him to put his name to the Olympian Jupiter, and 
further intrusted the charge of the statue to his posterity. Pausanias, 
who visited Olympia nearly five hundred years afterwards, speaks (v. 14.} 
of the sculptor's descendants, whom he calls Phaidruntai (cleaners, 
polishers) ; and he remarks that, before cleaning the statue, they always 
sacrificed on the altar of Ergane (Minerva Ergane, the protectress of 
manual labour). 

This celebrated work is said, though upon not very authentic sources, 
to have been carried to Constantinople by the orders of Theodosius the 
Great (379-395), and there to have perished in the fire which consumed 
the Lauseion, a. d. 470. (On the time and death of Phidias, compare 
Heyne, Ueber die Kiinstlerepochen beym Plinius, Antiquarische Auf- 
s'dtze, i. p. 1 82 ff. ; C. O. Miiller, Comm. de Vita PhidU ; and Sillig 
Catalogus Artijicum.) — W. 

•j- A gallery of the Vatican at Rome. — W. 




group * in the Belvedere ? All those astonishing beauties 
which the eye feeds upon with such ecstacy in the famous 
Torso of the Belvedere f, would unavoidably have been quite 
overlooked by a poet. The Medicean Venus J, the Farnese 
Hercules § , and the fighting Gladiator || also, — what is there in 
poetry that could supply the loss of them ? Even to descend 
to lower matters, what peculiar capacity and skill are re- 
quired in a poet's representation of an enraged lion, or a piece 
of beautiful, well arranged architecture, compared with what 
we find in the lions of Rubens and Snyders, or in the archi- 
tectonic background of a picture of Raphael or Poussin?^" 

* Discovered in the baths of Titus, 1 506. — W. 

■f The Torso of Apollonius, already mentioned. — W. 

\ In the Tribune at Florence W. 

§ The colossal Hercules of the Athenian sculptor, Glycon, which, ac- 
cording to an inscription on an inferior copy, was made by Glycon from an 
original statue by Lysippus (Bianchini, Palazzo dei Cesari, tv. 18. Miiller, 
Arch'dologie dcr Kunst, 129. 2.). 

This celebrated statue was discovered at Rome, in 1540, in the baths 
of Caracalla, but the legs were wanting ; these were supplied by Gu- 
glielmo della Porta, and the statue was placed in the palace of Paul III. 
(Farnese). The original legs were, however, shortly afterwards found, 
but they were not substituted for the restoration of Guglielmo della 
Porta until 1787, when the Farnese collection was removed to Naples, 
where the statue is now preserved, and is one of the principal ornaments 
of the Museo Borbonico. The hand holding the apples is a restoration, 
by a sculptor of the name of Tagliolini. — W. 

|| In the Louvre at Paris. — W. 

^[ It has been very truly, as well as elegantly said by Ovid, that Venus 
would have for ever remained buried under the waters, if she had not 
been happily drawn out by the pencil of the ingenious Apelles ; and, 
indeed, every thing considered, it would be very difficult to divine in 
what state, and to what degree, the whole or any part of the sublime 
imagery of the Greek and Latin poets could be communicated to their 
readers, if these matters had not been thus realised to our eyes in the 
works of art which fortunately remain. 

Words, after all, are but words, and there is no peculiar art in poetry 
which can make them any thing more. They are but symbols formed for 
the eye, out of twenty-four arbitrary scratches, called letters, and certain 
vibrations of the air, occasioning certain irritations in our organ of 
hearing, which by national compacts are made to suggest the idea of 
existing things, with their several modes and degrees of relation : and 
though the communication of all this matter of compact is more or less 
perfect, according to the degress of our education in it, yet how very 
imperfect it is, even at the best, will soon appear, on attempting to de- 
scribe in mere words any individual complex forms, as the portrait or 

I 2 


barry's lectures. 

[legt. II. 

For the same reason, then, that the dramatic in epic or other 
poetry is more perfect than the narrative part, and that the 
dramatic in representation is more perfect than in the per- 
usal : for the same reason painting is (as far as vision goes) 
the most full, complete, and perfect drama ; because it is a 
drama composed from general nature, where every indivi- 
dual imperfection is omitted, and where, in all the various 
parts of this complex whole, every thing is selected with 
corresponding and just fitness. 

It appears, then, that if all the great requisites of sensibi- 
lity, knowledge, and judgment are so indispensably necessary 
to sustain poetic invention, it must surely be allowed, that if 
not a greater yet at least an equal degree of those essential 
qualities is absolutely required to give vigour and value to 

likeness of any man's face, and numberless other matters, which need not 
foe mentioned. However, what language wants in precision, is abund- 
antly compensated in the facility and extent of what it does communicate 
in the whole range of characters, manners, passions, sentiments, and in- 
tercourse of society. But this facility, extent, and use of language, ap- 
plied as it is to all arts, sciences, trades, and other objects of human 
concern and knowledge, is common, and more or less every man's inhe- 
ritance : and Malbranche, in his Enquiry, and Nicole, in his Essais de 
Morale, Swift, Cervantes, Sterne, and many other prose writers, have at 
least as deeply and extensively applied this language as any of the writers 
in verse, whether of the comic, tragic, or epic kind. 

It should seem, then, that the advocates for the superiority of poetry 
over painting have been contending for advantages which are by no 
means peculiar to poetry ; and a stickler for Cocker's arithmetic might 
as well contend for the superiority of his own art, since there are many 
numerical combinations, ahout which the art of painting would be em- 
ployed to little purpose. 

Let us suppose, for a moment, that a great artist, a Michelangelo, a 
Raphael, Poussin, or Rubens, was deprived of his sight ; his art would 
then be utterly lost to the world. He would no longer have it in his 
power to hold out that mirror of ingenuity, where the whole visible 
creation is magically portrayed with so many accumulated advantages, 
where all its beauties are united, and all its deficiencies, imperfections, 
and incongruities taken away. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if you will 
allow him the use of language, he has it still in his power to talk of all 
these things ; and whether this talk be delivered in prose or verse, whe- 
ther it be sung or said, with more or less energy, you have still remaining 
all that poetry can give, which, as was observed before, is only an ani- 
mated account of certain productions of this master art, this improving 
mirror of nature, which his blindness debars him from calling into actual 
•existence. Hence then we are warranted to conclude that our art may, 
*to use a French phrase, be justly termed V art par excellence. 




the invention of the painter. Though the mediums of sense, 
through which the works of the painter and poet operate, 
are different, yet their intentions are the same, and they are 
both equally addressed to the same qualities of the heart and 
intellect in the spectators and hearers. 

As for any rules that may be prescribed to assist inven- 
tion, they can be but vague at best, particularly for the man 
who has occasion for them. Those most generally laid down 
are, that unity of idea be pursued through all the parts, prin- 
cipal and accessory, and that all necessary conformity with 
the circumstances of times, places, usages, characters, and 
manners be continually kept in view. But the successful 
application of these, and all such necessary observances, must 
entirely depend on the stock of liberal general education 
which is previously treasured up in the mind of the artist 
Without this adequate education, the hands of the painter or 
sculptor are inevitably tied up from all great undertakings, 
whatever his natural genius may be ; for nothing can be 
more true than the old adage, " that the painter paints him- 
self, or that the work is always a representation of the 
author." This is not to be understood, as some have ima- 
gined, that either the representation of the artist's face, or 
the peculiar conformation of his bodily structure is traceable 
in his works. No ; it is the mind of the artist which is visi- 
ble in what he does : the one must necessarily be an offtract 
of the other ; they are equally wise or foolish, contracted or 
expanded, made up of commonplace and gross ordinary mate- 
rials, or the contrary. From a rude, trifling, or ill-formed 
mind nothing good, instructing, great, sublime, amiable, or 
interesting can be expected. Such an artist may, indeed, 
attempt to employ his memory, and imitate the celebrated 
works of others, coldly and at a distance ; but he cannot be 
original without showing himself. 

Thus, young gentlemen, I have, to the best of my power, 
endeavoured to direct your attention to the important essen- 
tials of that comprehensive design upon which the becoming 
dignity of your art does absolutely depend. It is in the 
design, and in that only, that men can recognise those opera- 
tions of imagination and judgment which constitute the ideal 
of art, and show its high lineage as the offspring of philo- 
sophy and the sister of poetry. 

i 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

This ideal of design has for its object general and perfect, 
and not individual, imperfect nature. It is extended to all 
the parts of the art ; to ideal forms respecting beauty and 
propriety of character ; to the ideal in the composition of the 
story, fable, or subject, purged of all dead, uninteresting, im- 
pertinent circumstances ; to the ideal in colouring and the 
conduct of light and shade, respecting the happy choice and 
adaptation of peculiar tones or tints, the degrees of strength, 
tenderness, union, or variety, seizing upon and uniting all 
those transitory, though happy, accidental effects and graces 
which may be extended to the most unimportant things, 
even to the folds of a drapery. 

Divested of design art becomes a mere toy, a mechanical 
bauble, unconnected with either the head or the heart, unin- 
teresting to the wise and good, unprofitable to all, and 
amusing only to the weak and idle. 

Drawing, composition, chiaroscuro, and colouring, are 
but the constituent parts of design taken in this general 

I shall (God willing) in my next lecture, consider Design 
in the more limited, practical sense, to which this term has 
been applied in treating of the contour and other relative 
parts of objects, when we shall have an opportunity of 
making some occasional remarks on the different merits, 
style, and manner, of some of the chief of our great prede- 
cessors in the art. 

Lecture III. — On Design (continued). 

Having in my last discourse considered Design in its 
comprehensive sense, as it is understood to mean the whole 
conception or idea which a painter or sculptor expresses by 
the imitation of natural objects ; I shall now consider Design 
in that more limited sense in which this term is applied, in 
treating of the terminations, contours, or boundaries of 
objects, in the whole, and in their parts. In sculpture it is 

lect. in.] 



generally understood to extend no further than the geome- 
trical arrangement of those terminations, according to their 
real figure and proportion : but in painting there is super- 
added to this, the consideration of the perspective appearance 
of this proportionate arrangement of figure, as viewed from 
one point only. This is called draiving, by way of excel- 
lence, to distinguish it from all mere geometrical, regular 
delineations, and is undoubtedly the highest and most com- 
prehensive mechanic excellence of the art. As all the 
considerations of sculpture are therefore necessarily included 
in drawing, and indeed make but a part of it, I shall, in the 
following observations, endeavour to call your attention to 
those sound principles, in which the chief excellence of 
drawing has been observed to consist. 

Drawing has been always considered as the necessary 
foundation of painting, without which it is but a mere con- 
fused daubing of colours ; without drawing it is impossible 
to obtain the true images of things, or actions, their just 
proportions, variety of figure, energies, expressions, ani- 
mation, or sentiment. Drawing only can give a faithful 
representation of all those visible fluctuations of figure which 
result from the wonderful combinations of muscles, tendons, 
and bones, by which the animal functions are performed, 
exhibiting in the several limbs and parts, the exact degree 
of effort, proportioned to the action and occasion, and by 
which the inclinations and emotions of the soul are visibly 
imprinted in the countenance and gesture. The designer or 
draftsman must necessarily be conversant with those laws of 
gravity, by which only all bodies can be sustained in what- 
ever action and motion by the necessary regulation of an 
equilibrium in their parts ; in fine, he must perspectively 
dispose and arrange all his objects in their proper situations, 
relative magnitudes, distinguishing the several qualities of 
surface, of trees, of landscape, buildings, or draperies, by 
the several folds, leafage, and economy of parts peculiar to 

As the study of the human figure combines a greater 
variety of important considerations than that of any other 
animal body, all the great designers or draftsmen have 
attached themselves to it with such a peculiar predilection, 
that by the phrases, ability in drawing, great designer, or 

I 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. in. 

skilful draftsman, we are always understood to mean (by a 
kind of excellence) the skilful delineation or drawing of the 
human body. It is perhaps unnecessary to mention, that I 
mean the naked body, since all this variety of elevated know- 
ledge and accurate skill cannot be otherwise shown ; and it 
is well known, that for the same reason, the Grecian sculp- 
tors are by all men considered as the greatest designers. 
The Dutch artists who, however ingenious they may have 
been in other respects, yet as they had never attached them- 
selves to the delineation of the human body (but rather to 
the rags and furs with which it was enveloped), have never 
been considered as designers or draftsmen at all. The 
Grecian artists, and all the great moderns, who have judi- 
ciously followed their heroic example, instead of idly and 
meanly wasting their attention upon imitating the work of 
the tailor or mantua-maker, employed their whole care and 
solicitude upon those beauties of proportion, character, mus- 
cular exertion, and graces of expression or sentiment, which 
always discover themselves in the natural actions and ges- 
tures of the naked figure ; and for the most part, whenever 
they made use of drapery, it was but as an agreeable adjunct 
to assist the composition, and to cover some inessential 
part, but never or rarely as a principal worth imitating for 

* To make the display of the nude an essential of high art is approxi- 
mating the absurd, as it amounts, except on rare occasions, to ren- 
dering high art impossible. In accordance with this view, the elevated 
and the beautiful can seldom be united with the probable, for how few 
passages in history will admit of the introduction of the naked figure, 
and yet how vast is the field of history wherein to display the moral and 
the beautiful. The skilful arrangement of drapery involves as much 
taste and judgment as the proper management of the nude, and the 
draped figure may be represented as beautiful and as dignified as the 
undraped. A skilful arrangement of drapery does not consist in dis- 
playing the exact form of the nude, as if the drapery were a wet sheet, or 
blown against the person by the wind, but in showing the exact position 
and proportion of the covered, though not concealed parts. 

Raphael seldom painted the naked form, yet his figures are pre-emi- 
nently distinguished for dignity of character; and this is not owing to 
any display of the nude beneath the drapery, but to the position of the 
figures themselves, and the just arrangement of the folds of their draperies. 
This hankering after the nude is one of the morbid symptoms of the taste 
of that period ; with what success such a display is made, may be seen in 




As in all other things, so in drawing, that which is prin- 
cipal and characteristic claims our first and greatest atten- 
tion. From the general construction of the human body, its 
great and essential divisions of the trunk and its extremities, 
the joints and centres of motion, as well in the sub-division 
of those extremities, as where they are articulated with the 
trunk ; from the happy discrimination of these parts, and 
their necessary adjustment to each other, the head to the 
neck and shoulders, the trunk to the haunches, arms, legs, 
and feet ; from their peculiar forms in repose, and in the 
different degrees of agility and muscular exertion, as in all 
the possible motions and exertions of those parts, the figure 
is infinitely diversified by the contraction and relaxation of 
the several moving powers, or muscles, by which those 
actions are produced. The faithful spirited delineation of 
these characteristic essentials, which requires an intimate 
acquaintance with the anatomical construction, has been 
almost always overlooked when this anatomical skill was 
wanting ; without it an artist cannot even see what is before 
him, and he will unavoidably trifle away his assiduity upon 
the minute corrugations of the mere external surface, upon 
the small veins, multiplied wrinkles, and trifling peculiarities 
of the skin, which are rendered with such laborious, ignorant 
diligence by Rembrandt, Du Sart, and others. Besides the 
absence of all becoming excellence, this wretched trifling 
attention can manifest nothing but mere deformity ; as for 
example, the plies and wrinkles in the body of the Christ in 
Rembrandt's famous Descent from the Cross, show the body 
to have been disordered and decayed, as the skin is loose, 
almost detached, and too large for its contents. The essen- 
tial parts of the anatomical construction, the articulation of 
the bones, insertion and enunciation of the muscles, and the 
case or skin in which this machinery is enveloped, and the 
asperities of its transitions, more or less softened, according 
to the nature of the different exertions and different charac- 
ters, age, sex, and condition ; these important attentions are 
not to be dispensed with, and the relative proportion or con- 
formity of these parts to each other, and to the w r hole 

some of the monuments of the time, in St. Paul's, and in Westminster 
Abbey. A well-draped figure implies a thorough understanding of the 
nude in the artist. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. hi. 

together, ought also to be a consideration of the first im- 

The proportions or relative magnitude of the parts of a 
human body depend upon the nature of its character; and as 
the character may be infinitely diversified, the proportions 
will, of course, be infinitely various ; for the tall and short, 
the fat and lean, strong and weak, the several degrees of 
these and all their possible combinations, have each of them 
a conformity of parts and proportionate arrangement of rela- 
tive magnitudes peculiar to itself. The best, and indeed 
only precept that can be recommended for acquiring this 
knowledge of proportion, is the accurate investigation of 
general nature in its approaches to the abstract of each cha- 
racter. The more we are extensively knowing and practised 
in this study, the better we shall be enabled to appropriate 
to each character, and degree of character, the peculiar pro- 
portions that appertain, and, as I may say, constitute it. In 
this manner it was that the ancient Greeks proceeded in 
collecting the materials for their admirable works ; they had 
no general receipt of proportions, communicable to different 
characters, or degrees of character ; and the famous Dory- 
phorus of Polycletus could only have been studied as a 
happy example of the rule or law of nature, respecting that 
particular character, and not as applying generally.* The 
antique statues now remaining are, some of them, excellent 
examples of the true mode of study to be pursued, in adapt- 
ing proportion to character, by the happy conformity of each 
to the other ; and though they apply but to a few characters, 
as but a few of them remain entire, and the best of them 
but mere fragments, yet the track of study is sufficiently 
indicated : this is the only true, artist-like, and manly use 
that can be made of those vestiges of the ancients, and they 
are, and often have been, extremely misapplied, when the 
proportions on which they were constructed are, as so many 
general standards, extended beyond the individual occasion, 

* Doryphorus, literally, lance-bearer. This statue, says Pliny (Hist. 
Nat. xxxiv. 8. 1 9. ), was termed by subsequent artists the Canon (navoov), 
and used by them as the standard of the beauty of human proportions. 
Lysippus called it his master (Cicero, Brutus, 86.). Polycletus was the 
pupil of Ageladas of Argos, and the contemporary of Zeuxis and Alci- 
biades, in the latter part of the fifth century before Christ. — W. 




where only they could appear pertinent and natural. This 
misuse and too general application of the proportions of 
these excellent statues have not only been the occasion of 
great limitation of character, but have, for near too hundred 
years past, almost precluded the proper study of it, at least 
with the general run of artists. Lan franco, Cortona, Cig- 
nani, Le Moine, and others, have indulged this fondness for 
some particular proportions to such a degree, that their 
figures appear, to use the law phrase, to be all of the same 
venter; brothers and sisters, with no other difference but 
what arises from their action, position, or age. Many absur- 
dities of the first magnitude must inevitably follow, when 
the proportions are not peculiarly adapted to the character of 
the figure : the form of the muscles depend upon the nature 
of the character ; and the degree of muscular exertion will 
be according to the occasion of calling it forth. In all these 
respects the Hercules tying a Bow-Knot, by Roubiliac. is very 
faulty ; the proportions of this figure are nothing more than 
those of any ordinary, active man, and the great degree of 
muscular exertion and action manifested on so trifling an 
occasion, does not make the figure more Herculean, but 
rather heightens the absurdity : here is nothing of Hercules 
but the lion's skin and the club. These blemishes are much 
to be regretted, for in all other respects, this is amongst the 
best, most natural, and happily-executed figures in West- 
minster Abbey. 

In the early times of art, after Cimabue and Giotto, all 
the parts of the body were very much confounded together, 
and though dry and meagre, they were (particularly in their 
flexures) as inartificially drawn as if copied from the bend- 
ings of a sand bag. According to the notes I made upon 
looking over the old works at Florence, this dryness and 
Gothic imperfection was happily done away about the year 
1400, in the time of Bruneleschi and Ghiberti. The Cru- 
cifixion (large as life), by Bruneleschi, in Santa Maria 
Novella, is very well understood as to the anatomy, which 
in the principal parts and articulations is very visible, as the 
figure inclines somewhat to the meagre character, though 
not near so much so as the general run of the works of that 
time. The attitude is good, and not too stiff, with an agree- 
able sway of the body, and a good character in the head : 


barrt's lectures. 

[lect. in. 

there is great truth in the whole and parts of this figure, 
particularly in the thighs, knees, legs, and feet ; although it 
is not executed in so bold, noble, and masterly a style as 
Ghiberti's Evangelist, at Or San Michele. There is in the 
figure of Ghiberti a very great boldness and spirit in all the 
parts, a fierceness and majesty in the turn and character of 
the head, a loose play of the limbs, the bendings and articu- 
lations of the joints decided and well marked ; even the 
centre joint of the fingers bends back, and so much in 
Michelangelo's manner, that there can be but little doubt that 
Michelangelo's early studies had been much formed upon this 
figure. Although the ingenious Masaccio participated largely 
in this improved style of his two contemporaries and friends, 
yet beyond the mere contour it cannot be so apparent in his 
works, for the obvious reason of the greater complexity of 
painting. That rilievo of light and shadow, which was so 
necessary to give the appearance of truth and reality to the 
painter's drawings, was a matter of great additional investi- 
gation and labour, not yet fully known in the art, and with 
which the sculptor had no concern, as in his art it followed 
of course, and in its highest perfection, as the natural ac- 
companiment of the figure in rilievo. 

This true style of drawing, which is attached to all the 
superior considerations of essential form, proportionate, cha- 
racteristic discrimination, and expressive propriety, was 
begun by Masaccio and his contemporaries, completed by 
Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael, and continued by the 
Carracci, Domenichino, and other excellent artists of the 
good school, as well Frenchmen, as Italians ; the inherent 
dignity of this style of drawing, and the great celebrity of 
those who excelled in it, will sufficiently induce you to make 
the same election, and to pay but little regard to the cavils 
of the ignorant, or the naturalists, as they choose to call them- 
selves, if any such cavillers do yet remain amongst us. In this 
masterly style are many of the figures of Michelangelo, and 
though he is not always correct in his adaptation of the 
character to the subject, yet for the characters he has chosen, 
they are, as to the drawing, executed with more truth, spirit, 
and science, than any thing that has appeared since the resur- 
rection of the arts. His sublime Jonas, his Haman, and 
some figures in the Last Judgment, are above all comparison 




for sound, intelligent drawing. His figure of God, creating 
the sun and moon, is, as to the idea of the action, and 
the grace and spirit with which it is rendered, far beyond 
any of those of Eaphael, not alone those in the Loggie, 
which are said to have been executed after Raphael's designs, 
by his scholars or workmen, but even that in the Dispute of 
the Sacrament ; and that other, taken from the vision in 
Ezekiel, which is Raphael's best, has much of the Jove in 
it, and yet is far short of the divine energy, majesty, and 
grace of Michelangelo's figure. The character of Michel- 
angelo, as a designer, has always been prized in proportion 
as design itself was understood and cultivated : Raphael 
had reason to bless God, as he did, that he was born in the 
time of this great man ; and if Michelangelo's reputation 
has diminished in latter times, it is because this essential 
part of the art has been less attended to than those that are 
more showy and superficial.* No man has delineated with 
more skill all those actions which require spirit and energy; 
and in general the members and parts of his figures seem to 
have all their true magnitude and contents, however fore- 
shortened by their perspective position. Although foreshorten- 
ing, when too often affected, or in too violent a degree, is not 
less displeasing than it is vicious, yet a small degree of it, 
as in the body and thighs of Michelangelo's Jonas f, gives a 
happy taste and beauty to the drawing even of a single- 
figure, where it is thought to be least admissible. The 
avoiding of foreshortening entirely is very faulty, and de- 
stroys that air of truth and nature so essential to art ; since 
a painter does not draw geometrically, but perspectively, 
and there can be but few actions of figures seen from a 
point, which have not more or less foreshortening in some 
part : the excess and affectation of it only is blameable, the 
thing itself is a principal ingredient in the taste of drawing. 

There is an idle opinion, which has been handed down 
from one writer to another, which is, that the style of design 

* The principal works of Michelangelo are the prophets and sibyls on 
the vault of the Sistine Chapel; they were painted in 1509-12, during 
the time that Raphael was engaged on the two principal Stanze in the 
Vatican — the Stanza della Scgnatura and the Stanza dell' Eliodoro : 
all these works were executed in the pontificate of Julius II. The 
" Last Judgment" was commenced for Clement VII., in 1533, thirteen 
years after the death of Raphael : it was finished in 1541. — W. 

t On the vault of the Sistine Chapel. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. nr. 

of Michelangelo is altogether confined to one character, of a 
robust and muscular kind, copied always from the same 
model, who, as Freart ridiculously says, was the porter of his 
academy. If this opinion is not altogether false and ground- 
less, yet at least it is shamefully overcharged ; and I would 
not have mentioned it, but to put you so far on your guard, 
that it may not prevent you from allowing yourselves all 
those advantages in the study of drawing with which the 
works of this great restorer of art will best supply you. 
This exaggerated censure had been originally ushered into 
the world with much more moderation and justice, and 
under the sanction of a most respectable name ; for a writer of 
Michelangelo's own time, on mentioning the Last Judgment, 
says, that when he was at Milan, a scholar of Da Yinci in- 
formed him that his master spoke of it to this effect : <; That 
the only thing which displeased him in this work was, that 
in so many various aspects, there were so few figures, from 
which cause the muscles were as apparent in the youthful 
as in the aged, and that the outlines were of the same cha- 
racter." The remark is in some measure just, as applied to 
the Last Judgment, but it is worth observing that it never 
could have been made by Da Vinci *, as he left Rome to go 
to France in the Pontificate of Leo X., and the Last Judg- 
ment of Michelangelo was not executed till near twenty 
years afterwards, under Paul III. No doubt a considerable 
monotony of character prevails in the Last Judgment, where 
also his want of general management in the distribution of 
his objects as a painter (which, by-the-bye, he never pro- 
fessed himself to be) is sufficiently evident. But this does 
not appear in his less extensive compositions in the ceiling, 
which were painted some years before, when he was in the 
vigour of life. He was fond of introducing the expressive, 
or, as the Italians more happily call it, the rlsentito, and in 
all its possible varieties of action and position. This he 
knew was his own chief excellence, and was most wanting 
in his contemporaries, and he has sometimes (as in a few of 
the prophets, and other figures) run into an exaggeration of 
this, as well in the proportion of the parts as in the exhibi- 

* Leonardo da Vinci died fourteen years before the Last Judgment 
was commenced : he died at Cloux, near Amboise, in France, May 2. 
151 9, in his 67th year. — W. 




tion of the muscles, exceeding the just bounds of discretion 
and nature ; but this abuse is only found in a few instances, 
and he is by no means confined even to this character, noble 
as it is ; as his statue of Bacchus, his Pieta at St. Peter's, 
his Adam asleep, some of his figures over the cornice, and 
many other examples in the Sistine Chapel, abundantly 
testify. The character of this figure of the Bacchus is mis- 
applied, as is also that of his Christ at the Minerva, and 
perhaps that of his so justly celebrated Moses ; but over- 
looking this, and regarding them as certain grand and 
majestic characters of nature, there is surely nothing modern 
of equal merit for elevation, for unity of idea, and the most 
consummate knowledge of the figure, particularly the Christ 
and the Moses. 

Although the profound researches of Leonardo da Vinci 
were generally extended to all the parts of painting, yet his 
sagacity was so effectual in each, that it may be truly said 
that the chief part of the excellence in some of the greatest 
of his successors was owing to the discoveries of this great 
and philosophical artist. From his works, Giorgione and 
Fra Bartolomeo formed their beautiful style of colouring 
and rilievo, and Raphael his taste for the expressive and for 
diversity of character. The back ground of Da Vinci's 
Holy Family, and St. Michael, at Paris, is petite, and savours 
of the Gothic ; but the Madonna and St. Michael have a 
most uncommon air of truth, beauty, and sweetness. Whether 
the picture which is shown at San Celso as his so much 
celebrated St. Anna be a copy by Lovino or Salai, or 
whether Da Vinci did any thing more than a cartoon* of 
this admirable design, matters not ; but the sensibility, pleas- 
ing sweetness, propriety, and felicity of character of the 
Madonna, St. Anna, and other parts of this picture, cannot 
be overrated. In the stronger expressions, also, he seems to 
have gone greater lengths than any contemporary or suc- 
ceeding artists in marking the emotions of the soul in the 
countenance and action. His enthusiasm, though great, is 
always equalled by the coolness and solidity of his judg- 
ment: truth and energy go hand in hand, in whatever I 
have seen that was really his. There could not be a more 
happy example of this union than in his famous picture of 
* Now in the Royal Academy, London. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. ni. 

the Last Supper, at Milan. There is a print of this picture 
done from a drawing of Rubens'. The deformities, and 
slovenly, and precipitate incorrectness of Rubens' style of 
drawing are visible throughout ; it gives but a lame idea of 
Da Vinci's work.* The small copy at St. Germain l'Auxer- 
rois is much better, though greatly wanting in the spirit 
and decision of the original ; all that happy diversity of 
character, expressive agitation, and tender sentiment, appear 
to have been but little felt, and are ill rendered by the cold, 
timid hand of the copyist, j* 

This glorious work of Leonardo is now no more. I saw 
the last of it at Milan ; for in passing through that city, on 
my return home, I saw a scaffold erected in the Refettorio, 
and one half of the picture painted over by one Pietro Mazzi ; 
no one was at work, it being Sunday, but there were two men 
on the scaffold, one of whom was speaking to the other with 
much earnestness about that part of the picture which had 
been re-painted. I was much agitated, and having no idea 
of his being an artist, much less the identical person who was 
destroying so beautiful and venerable a ruin, I objected with 
some warmth to the shocking ignorant manner in which this 
was carried on, pointing out at the same time the immense 
difference between the part that was untouched and what had 
been re-painted. He answered, that the new work was but 
a dead colour, and that the painter meant to go over it all 
again. Worse and worse, said I : if he has thus lost his way 
when he was immediately going over the lines and features of 
Leonardo's figures, what will become of him when they are all 
thus blotted out, and when, without any guide in repassing 
over the work, he shall be utterly abandoned to his own igno- 
rance. On my remonstrating afterwards with some of the 
friars, and entreating them to take down the scaffold and save 
the half of the picture which was yet remaining, they told me 
that the convent had no authority in this matter, and that it 
was by the order of the Count de Firmian, the Imperial Se- 
cretary of State. Thus perished one of the most justly cele- 
brated monuments of modern art, particularly for that part of 

* There are good prints of this now decayed work by Frey, Morghen, 
Wagner, and A. L. Dick. — W. 

f The best copy is that by Marco d'Oggione, now in the Royal 
Academy, London. — W. 




design which regards the skilful delineation of the various sen- 
timents of the soul, in all the diversities of character, expres- 
sion of countenance, and of action. 

As to Leonardo's ability in drawing the naked, we may 
safely conclude, from what appears in the Battle for the Stand- 
dard *, that nothing but the scarcity of his works could have 
prevented his obtaining the highest degree of reputation in 
this part of his art also. His treatise on painting discovers 
the utmost sagacity, depth, and familiarity of knowledge re- 
specting the human figure, in all its diversities of character, 
actions, and motions. His occasional observations upon the 
anatomy of the human body, the articulations of the bones, 
the figure and offices of the muscles, the equiponderation of 
its parts, with and without adventitious weights, and its cu- 
rious and necessary mechanism to obtain the power of vigor- 
ous exertion ; these masterly observations have long since 
made all intelligent people regret that the treatise he has ex- 
pressly written on the subject of anatomy, and to which he so 
often refers, should remain unpublished, when it might be of 
use and entertainment to the artists of this or other acade- 
mies, or to the world in general. What might not be expected 
from such an author on such a subject ? besides, it might 
illustrate the history of anatomy, as this book is perhaps the 
earliest treatise on the subject of osteology and myology; it 
must have been near fifty years prior to the publication of 
Vesalius ; and the short work of Mundinus, written about the 
year 1478, treats of very little besides the viscera. 

Raphael's great excellence in design lies more in a happy 
union of all its essential parts, than in the energy of any of 
those parts directly considered ; he possessed all those parts 
in a high and respectable degree, particularly the expressive, 
which was his most characteristic, predominating quality ; 
although it is certain that his expression is sometimes not so 
accurately and happily defined as it might be, or would have 
been in the hands of Da Vinci or Domenichino ; it has often 
more of vague, general agitation, than that which is specific, 
precise, and peculiar to the passion, and to its degree. This 

* Executed in 1503, on one end of the Council Hall at Florence, for 
the Gonfaloniere Soderini. The picture was never finished. Part of it is 
engraved in the Etruria Pittrice. The celebrated " Cartoon of Pisa," by 
Michelangelo, was designed for the opposite end of the same room. 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. hi. 

is to be understood of the expression or passion in the coun- 
tenance merely, for the action and gesture of his figures are 
always accurately defined and well adapted to the occasion. 
The timidity and coldness of Raphael's early works show no 
indications of his subsequent prevailing character. Progno- 
stications founded upon them would differ very widely from 
what eventually happened in the course of his progress.* 
This taste for the expressive he seems to have adopted from 
Da Vinci, as well respecting the character of his figures as 
their energies of action and passion. The mind and intention 
of the figure is expressed in every part of the action, and all 
the parts of the body have a happier conformity with the idea 
or general character, whether it be tall or short, fat or lean, 
strong or weak, joyous or melancholy; and they are always 
happily adapted to the occasions and situations in which they 
are placed. The figures of Raphael are remarkably well pro- 
portioned in their different kinds, and have much of the verity 
and unaffected air of particular characters in nature ; although, 
upon a close inspection, it is sufficiently evident that they 
were copied from nature with considerable license, that much 
of what was inessential was judiciously neglected, and that 
his solicitude w r as only employed in seizing what was neces- 
sary and proper for his expression and character; and though 
his success seems, generally speaking, to have been much 
confined to the old and middle aged, and seldom passes be- 
yond the comely or handsome, yet his fertile imagination 
and excellent judgment have produced the most extensive 
and unexampled variety, even within those limits. 

In Raphael's figures the energy of action and expression 
(as was before observed) always arises out of the occasion, 
and are happily and justly proportioned to it. This discre- 
tion appears often wanting in Michelangelo. The energy 
and expression of his figures cannot always be accounted for 

* Raphael had three styles, — his Perugino, his Florentine, and his 
Roman ; it is to the works executed in the first of these styles that Barry- 
alludes. His Florentine style dates from 1504, from nis twenty-second 
year ; the last picture of his earliest method is the celebrated " Sposa- 
lizio," at Milan, a work abounding in beauties : the last, of his second, or 
Florentine style, is the Theology, or " Dispute on the Sacrament," in 
the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican; it was painted in 1509, and 
though in his second manner, is one of his greatest works. — W. 




from the character and occasion, and even when they can, 
some of them appear to have more than the occasion calls for. 
Besides this admirable discretion and judgment, in which Ra- 
phael appears almost unique (as Da Vinci has unavoidably 
done so little) there is a general air of urbanity diffused over 
Raphael's figures, which seems to have been derived from his 
general observations on the antique statues and basso-rilievos ; 
I say general observations, for indeed they appear nothing 
more, and he seems never to have paid much attention to an 
exquisite degree either of beauty or of elevated character.* 
Many of his subjects, such as the School of Athens, and the 
lower part of the Sacrament, do not perhaps absolutely re- 
quire either of these, but in those that do he is much want- 
ing. This is generally apparent whenever he has to do with 
ideal combinations in the classes of the elevated characters 
and possible forms of nature, as in the Cupid and Psyche at 
the Farnesina, where he has generally run into an unskilful, 
exaggerated imitation of Michelangelo, or in most of his other 
works, where he remains in the mediocrity of ordinary na- 
ture, freed indeed from grosser individual blemishes, but far 
short of the perfection that might and ought to have been 
collected from aggregate nature. His Christ in the Transfi- 
guration has neither that superior beauty or majesty that 
might have been expected from the sublime and happy way 
in which the more subordinate characters and expressions 
are treated ; and his Christ, in the Dispute of the Sacrament* 
is even still less beautiful, perfect, majestic, or extraordinary. 
His naked Apollo in the Parnassus is (independent of the ab- 
surdity of playing on the fiddle) in a poor style of drawing, 
and ill conceived as to proportion and character. The Muses, 
and most of the other female figures, have nothing very extra- 
ordinary either as to beauty or character. His women in 
general are either charged and heavy, with some comeliness, 

* On this subject Raphael may be allowed to speak for himself. He 
says, in a letter to Count Baldassare Castiglione, — ** to paint a beautiful 
woman I must see several, with this condition, that your excellence may 
be near me to select the more beautiful. But as there are few good 
judges, and few beautiful women, I have recourse to a certain ideal in 
my mind. Whether this be beneficial to art I know not; but I strive to 
form such an ideal in my mind." (Bernardino Pino, Nuova Scelta di 
Lettere, &c.) — W. 

k 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. he 

or dry and petite, without any thing very exquisite as to 
grace, character, or beauty. His woman carrying water in 
the Incendio del Borgo, though of this charged and heavy 
make, is yet truly sublime, by the expressive energy of her 
action. The angels, also, in the Heliodorus are fine instances 
of energy and expression, though they are not sufficiently 
discriminated from his mortals by either superior beauty or 
sublimity of character. 

It has been often and justly observed, that in the great 
variety of characters which occur in Raphael's works, al- 
though no offensive deficience is ever found, yet he appears 
to have better understood the middle walk, that of apostles, 
philosophers, and such like, than any other. His Transfi- 
guration is a very admirable specimen of excellent drawing, 
taste, and conduct in this way ; the drawing of the heads, 
hands, and feet is excellently diversified, as well in their 
character as aspects. His St. Paul, and some of the other 
characters in the S*. Cecilia at Bologna are even still more 
spiritual and beautifully elevated. The proportions of the 
Cecilia and Magdalen are select, faultless, and nothing heavy 
or over-charged, but they are not comparatively of equal per- 
fection in their way with the male figures. The best drawn 
naked figure that I know in all Raphael's works is the young 
man hanging from the wall, in the Incendio del Borgo.* 
Though the character is not very elevated, yet nature is well 
chosen, and it is preserved throughout with an admirable 
uniformity and purity, and the anatomy is not less bold and 
decisive than it is faithful and correct. The triton and nymph 
in the back-ground of the Galatea are also remarkable for 
purity and a good taste of the naked, as is also the back leg 
and thigh of the Diogenes in the School of Athens. His Pru- 
dence in the picture of Jurisprudence is on the whole one of 
the most elegant, beautiful, and correctly drawn of his female 
figures. Besides the other great merits of the Madonna della 
Sedia at Florence, the face is very beautiful, of the delicate 

* This figure is in the style of Michelangelo, as are all the others in 
this composition ; but the fresco was not executed by Raphael, and it is 
generally allowed to be among his inferior productions. Barry's bias in 
favour of the naked is apparent in all these remarks upon the character of 
Raphael's works. Marcautonio's prints after Raphael give an excellent 
idea of his maturer style of design. — W, 




kind, like the Venus de' Medici ; the hands lie excessively 
well in perspective, but are a little mannered and squadrate, 
like Barocci and Andrea del Sarto, so as not perfectly to cor- 
respond with the character of the head ; the head of the little 
Jesus is even more beautiful, true, and. natural, than any 
thing of Titian's, who, in general, is above all men in the in- 
fantine characters, and yet the arm is a little too square and 
Michelangelesque. The characters of the Madonna and Child 
are much more elevated and ideal in the Holy Family at Ver- 
sailles, but they are not so happily and naturally rendered. 

Raphael's washed drawing of the Calumny of Apelles * at 
Modena, is the most perfect in its kind of any thing I have 
yet seen : truth of form, just proportion, character, and ex- 
pression, are the sole objects sought after in this drawing : 
nothing is unskilfully charged for the purpose of obtaining 
grandeur, no affected artificial sway to produce grace, nothing 
of that false spirit and mistaken freedom or scratching of the 
pen which connoisseurs regard with such absurd, and, I fear, 
affected ecstacy. To such judges this drawing would appear 
cold and tame, as it is every where conducted with care and 
attention; the contour is in the highest degree precise and 
correct, and shadowed with a wash of bistre. The happy 
precision of this and other undoubted drawings of Raphael, 
their perfect similarity of style with what he has done in the 

* Apelles of Ephesus, not of Cos. This painter was living at the 
court of Ptolemy Philopator, 218 b. c. There is a picture of the same 
subject in the Florentine gallery, by Sandro Botticelli, and another at 
Hampton Court, by Federigo Zucchero. The figure seated on the 
throne with the ass's ears is Ptolemy, and he is represented as listening 
to the calumny of Antiphilus — that Apelles was concerned in the conspi- 
racy of Theodotus, the Egyptian governor of Coele Syria. (Lucian, de 
Calumnid.) Ptolemy at first listened to the accusation, but upon being 
afterwards convinced of its falsity, he made ample amends to the injured 
painter. The latter, however, after his return to Ephesus, painted this 
celebrated picture of Calumny. 

Ptolemy was seated upon his throne, Suspicion and Ignorance were at 
his sides, before him was Calumny dragging a youth by the hair ; she 
was preceded by Envy, followed by Deceit and Artifice : Repentance 
and Truth were represented in the back-ground. The allegory is evi- 
dently bad, the subject is inapplicable » it implies, also, a thorough under- 
standing of iconology. 

See the article Antiphilus, in the to the Penvy Cyclo- 
pedia. — W. 

K 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. in. 

chambers of the Vatican, with the S*. Cecilia, and the Trans- 
figuration, would incline one to believe that there are fewer 
pictures of Raphael's own execution than is generally ima- 
gined, and that much of what is ascribed to him in the heavy, 
charged style at the Farnesina and other places may, with 
more justice, be placed to the account of Giulio Romano, Gio. 
Francesco Penni and his other disciples, who probably, by 
working after the small drawings of their master, unavoid- 
ably introduced much of their manner and want of skill in 
the enlarging of them. This was evidently the case in the 
Battle of Constantine ; the style of Raphael's drawing for this 
subject, which is at the palace Borghese, is much more chaste, 
pure, and correct than that of the large picture which was, 
after his death, executed from it by Giulio. 

With respect to the mere drawing, our famous Cartoons 
are very unequal ; the comparative feebleness and inferiority 
of many parts of them verify what Vasari relates, that Ra- 
phael's scholar, Gio. Francesco Penni, was much employed 
in the execution of this work; although in another place Ya- 
sari intimates that they were all of Raphael's own hand : how- 
ever, this must be understood as to the formation of the de- 
sign, in which unquestionably they are amongst the most 
vigorous and exemplary productions of art. 

The style of drawing and character of the execution of 
these Cartoons is nearly the same with that of the Port of 
Ostea and Incendio del Borgo *, and differs from that of the 
School of Athens, Sacrament, and the others, in that it is less 
detailed, and of a more enlarged and robust kind. This 
change in Raphael's style of design, and his desire of making 
a nearer approach to Michelangelo's manner, is very confi- 
dently asserted by Yasari and others ; however, those who 
may be inclined to doubt whether any such change took 
place, may, with truth, affirm that there are no drawings or 
studies of Raphael to be found which authorise the notice of 
this change t ; that all his drawings, as well those found in 

* In the Vatican. — W. 

■f The change is from his Florentine to his Roman style, and what 
this change was is evident from a comparison of the " Dispute on the 
Sacrament " with the " School of Athens " and the " Hcliodorus : " not 
that this change can be attributed solely to the influence of Michelangelo, 
for Raphael must have been familiar with his style while at Florence, 
from his acquaintance with the " Cartoon of Pisa." It is, however, the 




Crozat's collection, as those made use of by Mark Antonio 
and Ugo da Carpi, in which are the Murder of the Innocents, 
and others for those very Cartoons, are all in the same man- 
ner, and correspond exactly with the style of those fresco 
pictures, the St. Cecilia, and those parts of the Transfigura- 
tion which are undoubtedly of his own execution. It is highly 
probable, from the different degrees of ability employed in 
those Cartoons, that Gio. da Udine and other disciples of 
Raphael, were concerned in them, as well as Penni. It is 
easy to conceive that the alteration and enlargement of the 
manner took place when those disciples copied the small 
drawings in large, and that Raphael, when he worked upon 
several parts of the Cartoons, contented himself with re- 
touching, and would not be at the pains of altering the out- 
lines already made, more especially as the work was upon so 
perishable a material, and intended for nothing more than the 
exemplar of another work.* Even this was more solicitude 
than he appears to have bestowed upon the Farnesina and 
some of his other frescoes. 

The Paul Preaching at Athens has but few faults in the 
drawing and execution. The group of hearers in the second 
plan are particularly well executed, without any feebleness, 
and though nothing exquisite, might very well pass for a 
negligent production of Raphael's own hand, except in some 
parts of the marking of the back and least consequential 
heads. The characters and proportions are well, neither 

difference of style between the " Dispute on the Sacrament" and the 
" Heliodorus," that the pope, Julius II., must have alluded to in the 
following interesting remark which he made to Sebastiano del Piombo : 
— " Look at the works of Raphael, who, when he had seen the works of 
Michelangelo, suddenly forsook the manner of Perugino, and approached 
as near as he could to that of Michelangelo : but he is terrible, as you 
see; one can do nothing with him." The last words refer to the c ha- 
racter, not the style, of Michelangelo. The passage quoted is in a 
letter of Sebastiano's to Michelangelo when in Florence. The letter is 
dated Rome, October 15. 1512. — Gaye, Carteggio Inedito d' Artisti, 
Ap. vol. ii. p. 489. — W. 

* For tapestries to be hung round the wall of that portion of the 
Sistine Chapel called the Presbyterium. They were originally ten in 
number, and were arranged five on each side of the altar. The lost 
cartoons are : the Stoning of St. Stephen, Paul in Prison at Philippi, 
and the Conversion of St. Paul. They were executed for Leo X. in 1515 
•and 1516. — W. 

k 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. hi. 

charged nor wanting in elevation. There is little worth par- 
ticularising either for excellence or deficiency in the drawing 
and execution of the Charge to Peter. 

The figure of Ananias is a happy instance of drawing as a 
whole ; the parts lie very well together, and the general forms, 
particularly in the head, back, and other extremities (except 
the right foot), are admirably well felt and understood. The 
opposite heads of the astonished man and woman are exceed- 
ingly well defined as to passion and character, as is also the 
apostle distributing the money. The execution of this last 
figure is remarkably mellow and good. The centre group of 
the apostles is feeble and bad in a very great degree, particu- 
larly the apostle pointing up to heaven, which for drawing 
and execution can hardly be worse. 

There is nothing feeble or defective in the Cartoon of the 
Elymas, except perhaps in the figure advancing to look at 
him ; the marble back-ground has great verity and gusto ; 
the Lictor's head in the light, and the profile head, pointing 
to Elymas, are excellently well rendered as to execution, 
verity of effect, and even hue of colour. 

In the proportions and mere forms, the figures in the 
Draught of Fishes, are sufficiently accurate and well : in all 
other respects they are ordinary, very ill managed, dense, 
earthy, and hard ; the fishes, and even the fowls, are much 
better executed, and from the soft reflex lights interspersed 
in their chiaro-scuro have an air of verity that is much 
wanting in the other parts. 

The Apostles at Lystra is of a much more exalted taste of 
forms and drawing. There is nothing very faulty, and even 
feeble in the execution. The arm of the man holding the 
ox, though somewhat charged and heavy, is notwithstanding 
of a good taste as to form, which is the case throughout 
the picture, even in those parts where the proportions are 
most exaggerated. 

The Peter and John Healing the Cripple is in all the 
parts of its execution by much a more perfect work than 
any of the others ; the zest of character and forms are very 
exquisite ; the shaded parts are broad, tender, and well con- 
ducted, being happily softened by the reflex lights on their 
extreme edges, which give them a fine taste of rilievo and 
convexity, that is wanting in all the other Cartoons, where, ge- 

lect. in.] 



nerally speaking, the shadows appear rather to resemble dirty, 
discoloured parts, than to be the portions of a surface in 
shade. The very noble and urbane air of all the other 
heads is admirably set off by the heads of the two cripples, 
which, though of a more gross and less sentimental phy- 
siognomy, have yet nothing mean in them, but, on the con- 
trary, are large, grand, and important, though composed of 
parts more material than spiritual. Peter's foot is admirable 
for its Titianesque hue of colour, as well as for its form. 
The cripple's hand and wrist are also of an exquisite taste 
of drawing, and even the ornaments on the twisted columns 
of a masterly and beautiful execution. Where there is so 
much and such great excellence, one cannot bestow atten- 
tion on the faults in the child behind the column, and a few 
other trifling particulars.* But as in our next discourse on 
composition we shall have occasion to enter upon the con- 
sideration of that excellence which more properly charac- 
terises those Cartoons, we shall leave them for the present, 
and proceed to remark, that, 

Titian's style of drawing is not remarkable for any excel- 
lence. In this part of his art he had but little selection, and 
was closely attached to whatever he saw that was not grossly 
faulty in the nature that fell in his way. His forms, therefore, 
though well enough rendered, are generally imperfect. Titian 
was ideal and scientific only in his colouring. On the contrary, 

Correggio's taste of drawing is very ideal, but as his ideas 
were not always well and solidly founded, his truth of draw- 
ing is frequently incorrect and affected, from over-much de- 
licacy, grace, and sentiment ; or swelling and overcharged, 

* The student must bear in mind that all the above remarks are upon 
the execution of the cartoons, that is, on their material part, which is not 
the work of Raphael, or at least a small part of it only. These works 
are great, not on account of their execution, but on account of their ex- 
traordinary or unrivalled excellence as compositions, their profound sen- 
timent, and general grandeur of style. Yet as designs also, in the wider 
sense, they are among the greatest works of modern art ; for as to the 
general arrangement of their parts, and the style or gusto of their forms, 
they are of the highest quality of art. It is to be regretted that Barry 
did not show their merits in design, as industriously as he has pointed 
out their faults in drawing. His criticism on the design of these works 
is a practical dereliction from the principles he has himself laid down in 
his second lecture. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. m. 

from an unskilful pursuit of dignity and superior character. 
These excesses are more apparent in his large compositions, 
in the Dome, and at St. John's at Parma, than in his oil 
pictures.* In those large works, his views seem to have 
been concentered in producing one general, grand effect, and 
he has succeeded to admiration. The particular figures, 
characters, and expressions, are better attended to in his oil 
pictures, where his too great spirit and impetuosity is much 
moderated by his more frequent opportunities of revising 
and correcting. In his Madonna della Scudella, the draw- 
ing is bad in many places, and is even wanting in the com- 
mon general proportion. If this picture was not so admira- 
bly and powerfully conducted in all the other parts, I should, 
from the feebleness of the drawing, have concluded it to 
have been a juvenile work of Correggio's, because his other 
famous oil picture at Parma, of the St. Jerome, affords con- 
vincing proof that he was an excellent draftsman, intelligent 
in proportions, and even singularly skilful in the proper and 
variegated application of them. The Madonna and the 
Magdalen are both exceedingly beautiful, are both remark- 
able for elegance and delicacy, and are, notwithstanding, 
essentially different, and the characters are accurately dis- 
criminated from each other throughout both the forms. 
The beauty, grace, and interesting sensibility of these and 
other female figures of Correggio, strongly show how short 
Raphael was of perfection in this class of figures. The 
taste of drawing in the head, body, and arm of the St. 
Jerome is very correct, the anatomy perfectly well under- 
stood, and great address is shown in that beautiful variety 
of contour produced by the elegant diversity of position in 
those parts : the leg is somewhat too plump and round, and 
does not correspond happily with the knotty, dry, and 
marked character of the other parts. Perhaps the foot of 
the Magdalen, also, does not perfectly correspond with the 

* The frescoes of the church of San Giovanni represent the Ascension 
of Christ, and were commenced in 1520, when Correggio was in his 
twenty-seventh year. The frescoes of the Duomo or cathedral represent 
the Assumption of the Virgin ; they were commenced in or shortly after 
1522, and were left unfinished by Correggio: they were completed by 
his pupil, Giorgio Gandini. The Cav. Toschi is now preparing an ad- 
mirable set of plates from these frescoes. — W. 




character of the hands, yet so great is the excellence of 
these two figures, that I have but little scruple in ranking 
them with any thing that has appeared since the revival of 
the arts. As every excellence borders upon some deformity 
— the simple upon the cold and inanimate ; the bold and ex- 
pressive upon the blustering and overcharged ; and the 
graceful upon the precieuse and affected ; and as the transi- 
tions from the one to the other consist in the imprudent and 
indiscreet application of the poco piu, o poco meno, the little 
more or little less — so it could not well be otherwise but 
that the beginnings of that exaggeration called manner will 
be found nearly coeval with every kind of excellence which 
depends upon selection and sentiment, and sometimes even 
occasionally existing in the same person. Lorenzo Ghiberti 
appears to have been the first in whom there is any indica- 
tion of exaggeration of manner : from a desire of avoiding 
the dryness and inanimation of his predecessors, it is no 
wonder that he shows a small degree of over-attention in 
displaying the bendings at the elbows, wrist, fingers, and 
other articulations, and in the projection of the brows, the 
frontal, and other muscles. This is even still more visible 
in some of the prophets, and a few other figures of Michel- 
angelo, and they both adopted it to give the figure more 
motion, life, spirit, sentiment, or grandeur. Zucchero, and 
others of his time, spoiled and overcharged such parts of 
Michelangelo's manner as they were able to adopt; and 
Sprangher, Goltzius*, and other madmen, have finally ren- 
dered it monstrous and ridiculous. 

Parmigiano's taste of design is often an improvement both 
on Michelangelo and Correggio. He frequently possesses 
the intelligence and spirit of the one, and the sentiment, 
grace, and sweetness of the other. The heads of Michel- 
angelo's figures are seldom remarkable for beauty ; they are 
but poorly furnished with hair, which gives them a poverty 
and meanness. They are often squatted down on the trunk 
by the foreshortening of the neck, which is apt to give a 
heaviness to the whole, and his drapery, when he has dra- 
pery, is inartificial, heavy, and badly cast. In all these 
particulars Parmigiano is often highly excellent. In general 

* Celebrated German painters of the latter part of the sixteenth cen- 
tury. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

his figures have much spirit and energy of action. They 
are often singularly beautiful, and almost always graceful. 
The articulations of the joints show great agility and ease ; 
the trunk is athletic yet light, as there is a fine discrimina- 
tion between the strength of the essential parts of the thorax, 
and the lightness of those of the abdomen, which are di- 
vested of all useless corpulency. His limbs are of a beau- 
tiful length and lightness ; his length of neck is often of 
great advantage, as it raises the head nobly above the trunk, 
and his plenitude of hair is elegantly dishevelled. Though 
these beauties are generally found in the figures of Parmi- 
giano, yet it must be confessed that they are sometimes car- 
ried to the extreme and caricatura, particularly in his ex- 
tremities, in the movements and grace of action, which 
(although the seat of his predominating excellence) are yet 
frequently overpowered by too much spirit. His famous 
Madonna at the Palace Pitti* would stand unrivalled for a 
masterly precision of drawing, divine beauty, character, sen- 
timent, elegance, and graceful action, were it not that some 
of those perfections are a little overcharged, to the prejudice 
of the simplicity of nature and truth. However, its excel- 
lence is so great that my heart smites me when I pass this 
censure on those particular exuberances, for they cannot 
be considered as affectations, which would imply assumed 
qualities, not really felt. In the church of the Steccata at 
Parma is the last work of Parmigiano ; it is not only his 
best work, but the only one in which he might have had an 
opportunity of fairly throwing out his whole strength in a 
manly competition with his predecessors ; and from the 
castigated style, vast ability and perfection of his outset, 
which now remains, there is every reason to believe that 
Italian art would have acquired a considerable accession of 
character, and of the highest kind, had this work been 
completely executed. After the loss of his intelligent 
patrons and happy situation, by the sacking of Rome, the 
patience of this great man must have been much exer- 
cised, in being perhaps obliged (and in the vigour of life) to 

* Known as the Madonna del Collo lungo, that is, with the long neck ; 
it is certainly most disagreeably long. These long necks are a character- 
istic defect with Parmigiano. The Pitti Madonna has been engraved in 
Landon's Outlines. — Vies et (Euvres des Peinires, &c. — W. 




quit the work he had just begun at Parma, in order to seek 
for a subsistence from alchemy.* However, the Adam, the 
Moses, and the female figures which surround the band, 
were all he executed, and can never be too much admired. 
The action of the Moses is highly animated, even to enthu- 
siasm ; the Torso is perhaps a little too light in the upper 
part,, the head and arms are well understood as to character, 
and admirably drawn : there is a union of the majesty, and 
even terrible dignity of Michelangelo, with the discretion 
of Raphael when in his best manner, and what is more than 
all, there is a feeling of the venustas of the antique, which 
is traceable throughout this figure, as well as those of the 
females, and they are executed with an ease, spirit, and mas- 
terly finish, that is only to be found in Parmigiano. The 
drapery of those female figures is light, proper, and executed 
with a felicity superior to any thing of the kind, even in 
Raphael, who is in general beyond all men in this respect. 

Another style of design, different from all these, appears 
to have had its rise in Lodovico Carracci. He has nothing 
of the swelling contour and spreading toes of Michelangelo. 
He seems rather to follow individual nature closely, and to 
give but little into the ideal. His figures are meagre, dry, 
and bony, and their toes are even pressed close together and 
ride, as is seen in the feet of those that have been accustomed 
to wear tight shoes. His St. Jerome, in the church of San 
Martino Maggiore, is an exception. This admirable figure 
is in a large, noble style ; the naked body of the saint is 
very like that of the Laocoon, and exceedingly well made 
out. This and some other of his works show that he was 
well able to avoid monotony of character, but in by far the 
greater part of what he has done he is generally too fond of 
the dry, lean (and if such a term be allowable) squarish 
character and outline. However, his objects being, for their 
kind, always rendered with so much intelligence, truth, and 

* Parmigiano was only twenty-three years old at the sack of Rome, 
and was engaged at that very time on the Saint Jerome, now in the Na- 
tional Gallery. The frescoes of the Steccata were contracted for in 
1531, but were not commenced until five years later. He was a dissi- 
pated character, and the author of his own misfortunes. He died in 
1540, in the thirty-seventh year of his age. See his Life, by Aff6, 
Parma, 1784 W. 


bakry's lectures. 

[lect. in. 

nature, they are always pleasing, though not in so high a 
degree as they would have been, had the nature he followed 
been of a more noble choice. He was probably led into this 
choice of nature from an idea of its being more proper and 
correspondent to the recluse, castigated, sanctified character, 
and it is likely, that for the same reason, his manner has in 
this been so very generally followed ; but still he might have 
preserved the leanness, though he raised the character and 
variegated it more. Design was but one of the many desi- 
derata Lodovico had in view. He and his two relations, 
Agostino and Annibal, had judiciously adopted the idea of 
uniting all the excellencies of the art which were scattered 
in their predecessors, who had separately cultivated the 
perfection of each : the time was now ripe for it, after co- 
louring and chiaroscuro had been completed by the success- 
ful labours of Titian and Correggio. Of this main view of 
the Carracci and their disciples, in happily uniting all the 
parts of painting, we shall hereafter have occasion to take 
more particular notice. But to proceed with our present 
subject ; Agostino's style of design is better selected from 
nature, more large and noble than that of Lodovico, and, not 
to be too particular, the great perfections of many parts of 
his Communion of St. Jerome, and Assumption of the Virgin 
must make every man regret that he should throw himself 
away from that for which he was so admirably fitted, in 
order to cultivate engraving, which suited better with those 
interruptions and little intervals of leisure in which his 
useless associations with what is called high company had 
ridiculously enveloped him. 

As to Annibal, his style of design, like that of Agostino, 
is of a noble and enlarged kind, and savours but little of the 
poverty of defective individual nature. When he came to 
Rome he had ample opportunity of giving the last hand to 
those studies he had so happily advanced by all he had seen 
in Lombardy. His style of drawing, which was before 
great and animated, received a new occasion of perfection 
from Michelangelo, from Raphael, and above all from the 
antique, which opened new sources of ideal beauty, of which 
he had before but faint glimmerings. An advantageous 
change of style took place accordingly, and although in the 
noble work which he then executed at the Farnese Gallery 




his Improved abilities appear in great splendour, yet there 
is just reason to believe that in his subsequent works he 
would have improved the admirable style he had just adopted 
into still higher perfection, had not his death been brought 
on prematurely by the mean-spirited, brutal conduct of the 
nobleman*, upon whom his attention and labour had been 
so vexatiously wasted. f 

* This is an error. Annibale Carracci lived five years after the com- 
pletion of the Farnese gallery, and he was treated like a gentleman by 
the Cardinal Farnese during the four years (1600-4) that he was en- 
gaged upon it. He had the usual table allowance of a courtier for him- 
self and two servants, and a monthly salary of ten scudi, about two 
guineas. In addition to this, he received at the completion of the work 
a. present (regalo) of 500 scudi. Annibale received, therefore, for this 
work about 1000 scudi, or about 200 guineas, besides maintenance for 
himself and servants for four years. Two hundred guineas at Rome in 
the commencement of the seventeenth century would, perhaps, be equal to 
1000 in the present day in London. Raphael was not paid so much 
money for the ten Cartoons, to say nothing for the maintenance. See 
the Notices of Annibale Carracci in the works of Bellori and Baglione. 
— Vite de* Pittori, &c, and in the editor's Catalogue of the National 
Gallery. — W. 

f The academicians and associates having been lately indulged with 
the opportunity of inspecting the Italian part of the Orleans' Collection, 
I had no small satisfaction, on this interview with my old acquaintance 
and benefactors, in indulging the hope, that what had so long been the 
object of my ardent wishes would now probably be soon obtained, nay, 
would certainly be obtained, if rightly managed with a becoming skill 
and dignity on the part of the Academy. Who can question it, that has 
a proper conception of the high, generously-cultivated spirit of those out 
of the Academy who might co-operate in a transaction so essentially neces- 
sary for the advancements of the arts, for their dependent manufactures, for 
the public entertainment and glory, and for the fair-dealing, and the justice 
that is due to you, young gentlemen, who receive your education in this 
Institution of a Royal Academy ? Although many, and some of the best 
of those pictures, are already disposed of by private contract, yet I should 
not despair, if this matter be properly managed. O, how necessary and 
salutary is true greatness of mind in all leading departments, and how 
universally will every thing wither and decay without it ! nothing, no 
artificial dexterity or management can supply its place. Poor Sir Joshua 
Reynolds ! God be with him ; were he living he could find a remedy, 
and I must, and will say, that the occasion ought not to be lost, and 
surely will not, cannot, and therefore I think I may indulge myself with 
the satisfaction of reflecting, that you, young gentlemen, will receive sub- 
stantial and extensive benefit and advantage from an attentive considera- 
tion of many of the masterly, truly noble performances in this collection. 
In the very article on which I had been speaking, the castigated, admir- 

144 barrt's lectures. [lect. hi. 

These important principles of design or drawing, which 
either separately or more united have been pursued with 
such various degrees of success, by the great restorers of 
modern art, are (as I have had frequent occasion to observe) 
to be found in a still higher degree, and with a much more 
perfect union, in some of the admirable remains of Grecian 
sculpture. When we reflect on the various degrees and 
arrangements of bulk and heaviness that indicate an unfit- 
ness for action and agility, and the degrees of levity, incom- 
patible with strength ; the Torso of the Belvedere will 
appear the most complete, perfect system, or arrangement of 
parts, that can possibly be imagined, for the idea of cor- 
poreal force, which it was intended to represent. The cha- 
racter of all the parts most perfectly corresponds with each 
other, and with the general idea ; and if the length and 
taper form of the thighs are calculated to obtain the victory 
in the foot race, which Hercules won at Olympia, yet their 
agility appears more the consequence of force than lightness, 
and they are in perfect unison with the loins, abdomen, chest, 
and back, which exhibit a power that well might crush 
Antaeus. In a comparison with this sublime vestige, the 
Hercules Farnese does not appear a stronger, though a much 
heavier figure. It seems rather an idea of strength than of 
force, of mere stationary strength than of active force, and 
has, perhaps, more of the Atlas than of the Hercules, par- 
ticularly from the loins down ; but it is possible that a great 
part of what I least admire in the general appearance of 
this Farnese Hercules may be owing to the legs, which are 

able style of design of Lodovico Carracci, there is in the dead figure of 
the Christ (No. 53.), a specimen in that way, the happiest that can be 
imagined, and assuredly equal to any thing of his at Bologna. I hope 
some time hence to have a little leisure for some general remarks 1 on a 
few of those specimens of the old masters which enrich this collection. 2 

1 Published in his Works, 2 vols. 4to. : London, 1809. — W. 

2 The Orleans Collection was brought to London in 1792, and was 
disposed of by private and public sales in 1798-1800. The principal 
works contained in it are engraved in La Galerie du Palais Royal. The 
dead Christ of Lodovico Carracci, referred to, is in the collection of the 
Earl of Carlisle* at Castle Howard. Several other pictures of the collec- 
tion are now in the National Gallery. — - W. 




modern*, and by [Guglielmo della] Porta, an artist of but 
little skill, as appears abundantly from his large figure below 
stairs in the living academy. 

Some ingenious artists have endeavoured to account 
mechanically for the superior perfections of the celebrated 
Greek statues, by the characteristic nature of lines and 
angles, uniformity and variety ; and they have reasoned 
after the following curious manner : — " That perfection con- 
sists in the variegated composition of straight, convex, and 
concave lines and angles ; that the straight gives simplicity, 
the convex greatness, and the concave elegance and light- 
ness ; that the waving line gives beauty, and the serpentine 
or twisted grace. That the Apollo Belvedere is composed 
entirely of very gentle convex lines, of very small obtuse 
angles, and of planes, or level parts but the soft convex 
predominates. It being necessary that the character of this 
divine figure should express force, grandeur, and delicacy, 
its author has demonstrated the first by the convex contours, 
the second by their uniformity, and the third by the waving 
lines. The obtuse angles and light inflexions form the 
waving line, and by their union is shown sufficient force and 
dignity. In the Laocoon the convex lines predominate, and 
the forms are angular, as well where they indent, or fall in 
as where they swell out, by which means the agitation of the 
expression is manifested: because in this way the nerves 
and tendons of the figure, which are much strained, are 
rendered more visible. The straight lines being opposed 
to the convex and concave, by which is shown that the 
figure is agitated. The sculptor of the Hercules has found 
out a taste altogether different ; he has made the forms of 
the muscles convex and round, to show that they were real 
flesh, but the line of indenting, or entry, is straight, to signify 
that those parts were nervous and meagre, and by this is 
expressed the character of force and strength. In the 
Gladiator there is a mixture of the forms of the Hercules 
and the Laocoon, because the muscles in action are agitated, 
and those in repose are short and round, like those of the 

* This figure now stands upon its own legs (see note, ante). The 
restorations of Guglielmo della Porta were from the knees to the ankles 
only, inclusive. The feet were found with the body and pedestal. See 
Goethe, Italienische Reise, 1787. — W. 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. ni. 

Hercules. In the Torso of the Belvedere, a work merely 
ideal, all the beauties of the other statues are united, because 
it has a variety so perfect, that it is almost imperceptible ; 
its plane, or flat parts, are not to be discerned but by com- 
paring them with the round, and these with the other; the 
angles are less than the flat or the round, and could not be 
distinguished, were it not for the little beds of which they 
are composed." Thus much I thought it proper to lay before 
you, as a specimen of the mechanical rules which one of these 
writers has laid down for the conduct of design. Perhaps 
these rules may be of some use in the arbitrary conjunctions 
of composition ; but they appear to me to be very inconclu- 
sive, and much out of their place, when thus applied to pre- 
scribed forms, which can result solely from their propriety 
and fitness to the character, and from actions corresponding 
with the sentiment and occasion. Besides their utter inap- 
plication, these multiplied little rules seem likely to generate 
manner, to substitute the artificial in the place of the natural, 
and to distract, or occupy too much of that attention which 
ought to be bestowed on matters of more importance ; and 
still farther, they appear altogether unnecessary, for when 
these higher matters of the character and action are properly 
attended to, they produce all that can be sought after by 
any rules, without the incumbrance of their application ; for 
instance, the character of a beautiful female, or of an athletic 
male body, and all the circumstances of its action, as sitting 
or dancing, being judiciously determined, the form of all the 
parts, their relative swellings, cavities, angles, or planes, 
must follow necessarily, and in their precise and exact de- 
gree ; their conformity with the character and action is the 
only arbiter that can be admitted, and nothing is left to the 
choice of the artist. The contour of a stretched out arm 
must depend upon the character of the arm, whether it be 
that of an Apollo or a Hercules ; and upon the business 
about which it is employed, whether pushing or pulling, or 
merely stretched out — for in all these cases the contour will 
be essentially different ; the same must inevitably hold of all 
other characters and actions. 

Sameness or repetition, being always disgusting, the pur- 
suit of variety enters necessarily into all the concerns of art ; 
and this variety is sufficiently and fully effected by diversi- 


fying the characters, actions, or positions of figures, which 
may be done ad infinitum. Every thing in quality and cir- 
cumstances has its own peculiarity. The aged, or the in- 
active, admit of less variety of flexion and motion than the 
young and vigorous ; and in a subject so complex as the hu- 
man body, where motion, or transition from one action to 
another must be progressive and successional, variety in the 
position and aspect of those parts follow as the necessary 
consequence. In turning about, for instance, the mind, eyes, 
and head go foremost, and the body and lower extremities 
follow ; hence the aspect of the central, or transverse dia- 
meters of the head, shoulders, and haunches, will be va- 
riegated from each other in the degree adequate to the oc- 
casion, and produce those curves or spiral lines of variety 
(or of beauty and grace, as they have been called) which 
run along the spine, or linea alba, from the pubis to the 
point between the clavicles, as is seen in the Laocoon, and, 
more delicately, in the gentler transitions of the body of 
Michelangelo's Christ at the Minerva, or the Torso at the 

When I speak of the superior intelligence of design in the 
antique statues, I would be understood to mean a few only. 
The Torso of the Belvedere is as to perfection really unique. 
There is nothing that can be put into the same class with it. 
The Laocoon, the Apollo, the Venus, the fighting Gladiator, 
the Farnese Hercules, and a few others, come next, and can 
hardly be overrated, and there is a general purity of concep- 
tion observable in most of the others, even to the lowest 
class ; but notwithstanding it is equally true, that whether 
from laziness, the inability to distinguish the good from the 
bad, or from whatever cause, but there is a very general 
propensity to vague indiscriminate admiration of them, which 
is likely to be exceedingly mischievous, and has already 
been productive of very bad consequences ; and it is very 
observable that this has gradually increased in proportion 
as the sound principles of design fell into disuse. It will 
become you to beware of this abuse. As the perfection of 
art is your only object, you ought to examine every thing 
with equal weights and measures ; ancient or modern should 
be equally admirable or indifferent to you, as they are more 
or less conformable to the truth and perfection of things. 

L 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. hi. 

You will then, in the spirit of just discrimination, restore 
some figures of Michelangelo, of Puget, Girardon, and 
others, to their just and proper rank after the Apollo, the 
Laocoon, Gladiator, and other antiqifes of the second class, 
and far beyond the others of the third, fourth, fifth, and 
sixth. It is hardly necessary to apprise you, that although 
great part of the remains of ancient art may be feebly exe- 
cuted, and of little consequence with respect to the design, yet 
many of those vestiges are really invaluable, and worthy our 
most serious attention and study on other accounts, as they 
convey, perhaps, the only certain information relative to the 
usages, ceremonies, and mystical doctrines of those remote 
and heroic ages. The important discoveries which have 
been recently made in this track of study ought to induce us 
to hope every thing from the farther prosecution of it. But 
as the object of our attention at present is to discriminate 
between the examples of more or less perfect design, it will 
be for our purpose to observe, that although the statue of 
Meleager, with the boar's head, is a happy specimen of the 
ancient manner of representing their heroes naked, with no 
adventitious circumstances of embellishment but such as 
were necessary to manifest their identity, or their celebrated 
actions ; in other respects this is a figure of great mediocrity, 
and probably an ancient copy ; in some parts of the profile 
view, it is too lathy and slender, perhaps from being made 
for a niche, and the legs not only want beauty, but are even 
gummy and ill formed. That in the Antinous at the Capi- 
tol, though the head is beautiful, round, and tender, the body 
is of a different character, hard, and tending to the dry and 
straight.* That even in the Apollo Belvedere, sublime and 
beautiful as it undoubtedly is, yet perhaps the right clavicle 
and shoulder want magnitude to correspond with the other 
parts ; and whether owing to the legs having been broken off 
above the ankle, but the ends of the tibia and fibula which 
form the inner and outer ankle do not seem to be in their 
proper places, as they are in the Venus de' Medici, the Bor- 
ghese Faun, &c. The end of the tibia or inner ankle is in 
nature higher and more forward upon the foot, that of the 
fibula or outward ankle lower and nearer the heel. Thus 

* These opinions are at variance with those of many good judges re- 
specting these two statues. — W. 




superior to vulgar prejudices, you will be swayed only by 
liberal and enlarged motives. The love of that excellence 
you are pursuing in your own studies will incline you to ad- 
mire and to venerate the abilities of your predecessors, whe- 
ther ancient or modern, and of whatever country, and could 
it be also extended to your contemporaries and rivals, it 
would be still more honourable to yourselves. 

Before I conclude, it may not be foreign to our purpose to 
observe still further that drawing must not be considered as 
an end, but as a means only by which the painter can be 
securely conducted to the end proposed. Though it be the 
principal and most essential part of his art*, yet it is but a 
part, and not the whole. For although the chiaroscuro, 
which accompanies what is called a finished drawing, pro- 
duces a totality in itself, yet this totality is nothing more 
than an imperfect substitute for the totality of painting, 
which comprehends the whole natural appearance, as well in 
the colours of objects, as in their forms and degradation of 
effects. These imperfect substitutes of painting, which are 
called finished drawings, and which comprehend the whole 
of what is proposed by the engraver's art, are to be consi- 
dered as consisting of three parts. 

The first and most important is that which regards the 
essential forms, the characters, the expressions, spirit, and 
vivacity ; the second that which regards the rilievo and 
truth of the effects in the light and shade and degradation of 
objects ; and the third that which regards the handling or 
mechanical treatment, which, though it be of infinitely infe- 
rior consideration, yet it ought to be conducted in a work- 
manlike and becoming manner, whatever mode of execution 
be adopted, whether lines or washed tints, on paper or on 
copper. The works of Audran, Edelink, Frey, Pontius, 
Yorsterman, Cars, and all the masterly engravers, afford ex- 
amples of the soundest practice in this way. Every thing of 
importance is rendered con amove with the highest skill and 
assiduity, and their conduct in the more mechanical part, the 
treatment of lines, appears with a noble, skilful simplicity 
only to follow as the consequence of a practised and well- 
exercised hand. Every part has its own peculiar treatment, 
whether fleshy, muscular, or nervous. Whether you consider 

* That is, of the mechanical, or executive part of the art. — W. 
l 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

the cattle of Bercliem and Vischer, or the docks, foreground, 
trees, and landscape of Lawrence*, Vivares, and Chatelin, it 
is all drawing, and no other taste of lines is adopted than what 
springs altogether from the essential form and material of the 
several objects. This admirable detail of execution, attached 
only to the truth and characteristic nature of objects, was 
still improvable into any force of effect and depth of tone ; but 
the experience of all ages shows how difficult it has been in 
the improvement of arts to stop in the right place. Folly 
and ostentation will go further : unskilful men, blind to the 
real intrinsic beauties of their art, which they have but ill 
studied, are very liable to mistake the means for the end, 
and so employ their whole solicitude in the pursuit of lines, 
as a principal sought for on its own account, where, without 
any higher reference, they may have an opportunity of ex- 
hibiting the unnecessary difficulties and curious niceties of 
stroke and execution which, like the graces often met with 
amongst fiddlers, only serve to perplex and destroy the 
groundwork of expression, character, and sentiment which 
they so absurdly attempt to illustrate. To mention one out 
of many instances that might be given, the St. Genevieve of 
Balechou (which has unhappily been often imitated by young 
engravers), has neither truth of form, rilievo of light and 
shadow, nor any thing that one might expect in an engrav- 
ing from so able a draftsman as Vanloo. Besides a great 
deficiency in all the parts of drawing, this print is remark- 
able for nothing but a curious, difficult, and idle manner of 
cutting copper. As neither the form nor rilievo of natural 
or painted objects can afford any thing to warrant this ridi- 
culous carved work and engrailing, and as nothing of it is to 
be found in the works of those eminent living engravers 
whom the public have long known and justly admired, one 
might be at a loss to account for the introduction of this 
absurd affectation, were it not for the natural propensity of 
weak minds to distinguish themselves in manoeuvring with 
the point or graver, when they are incapable of making a 
better and more manly use of them. 

Thus much may (for the present) be observed upon 
Design, a term which, in its general acceptation, compre- 
hends the whole conception or idea expressed in painting and 
* Andre Laurent, sometimes called Lawrence. — W. 




sculpture by the imitation of real or possible objects, and in 
its more confined sense, as applied to the contours, termina- 
tions, or lines by which the whole and parts of objects are 
bounded in modelling or drawing. It comprises all the 
necessary knowledge of the anatomical construction, the 
beauties, sublimities, and peculiarities of form in all the pos- 
sible and actual discriminations of character ; the proportions 
that appertain to each, and the degree of sensibility, passion, 
and emotions of the soul which govern and display them- 
selves in the bodily exertions. 

I should most heartily rejoice to see these principles of 
sound design pursued upon an extensive, liberal plan ; per- 
suaded, as I am, that any man properly qualified by nature 
and education, who would generously employ his whole undi- 
vided attention to it, might derive advantages from the 
information of the eighteenth century that would infallibly 
enable him to carry this ideal and most essential part of the 
art far beyond the point at which our predecessors had left it 
two hundred years ago. Though truth obliges me to insist 
upon the practicability of this, yet charity and humanity 
withhold me from wishing that many of you should devote 
yourselves to make the experiment, as mere capacity, when 
you had attained to it, would and could avail nothing without 
the necessary opportunities for exerting yourselves ; and our 
country affords so blank a prospect in those opportunities, 
that they do not appear to be sufficient for the continued 
necessary exercise of even one man's talents, much less for 
so many as this academy is likely to produce. Hogarth's 
prophecy is amply fulfilled ; and, however light this matter 
may appear to others, yet, like the frogs in the fable, you 
will, I fear, one day find it of serious consequence to you. If, 
unhappily, opportunities of elevated exertion should be want- 
ing to you on the one hand ; on the other, you may rest 
assured that neither yourselves nor country can gain any 
great reputation in the eighteenth century by the employing 
your talents on subordinate, mechanical things. This could 
be expected only in the early times, before the mechanic was 
completed, and when art w r as a mere novelty. Disagreeable 
as it is, yet duty requires me to lay your situation thus fairly 
before you in the outset, whilst there may be time to make 
a prudent retreat without dishonour ; for, as much must be 

L 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

done by every man before he can possibly do well, if there 
be little or no likelihood of obtaining this necessary exercise, 
he must be a bad man indeed who could wish to see your 
capabilities and talents mouldering, from disuse and want of 
employment. And it is very certain, that if artists do but 
little in their profession, the folly, laziness, and malevolence 
of a great part of mankind will never examine whether these 
artists were wanting to their country, or their country to 
them : it is generally determined in the easiest and most 
expeditious way, by supposing the artist to have but little 
genius. However, we owe a love to the art itself, and it will 
become us to rejoice in its advancement, whether we shall be 
allowed the honour of being instrumental to it or not ; as 
perhaps the glory of obtaining this palm is reserved for some 
other new people, where the shoot of vigour and virtue may 
have ample room to expand themselves ; where that gran- 
deur and elevation of soul which can best qualify the artist 
for the sublimities of his profession, will not disqualify him 
with the great and opulent, who only can employ him, and 
where art may be blessed with a long career before it is 
blighted by those baneful dissipations, want of magnanimity, 
and hatred of virtue which ever did, and, it is to be feared, 
ever will characterise a corrupt and declining people. 

In my next discourse I shall endeavour to call your atten- 
tion to Composition, or Arrangement. 

Lecture IV. — On Composition. 


The composition of a picture, whether it regards the cir- 
cumstances of an action, carried on by many figures, or 
whether it only comprehends the detailed members and ad- 
juncts of a single figure, or any other conjunction of parts, 
forming an integral or whole, whatever be its nature, it is 
indispensably required that it should be reducible to one 
subject or action, and to one individual instant of time in this 


As every action has many points of time, some of which 
are better shown by words, and, consequently, fall more 
within the province of poetry, the painter's business is to 
avoid these, and to employ his ingenuity upon such moments 
only as may sustain themselves, independent of words, and 
carry all their elucidation and energy in their exterior ap- 
pearance with a force and precision that is in vain attempted 
by any language of mere words. This is the stronghold of 
our art, and here poetry would be as tame and defective as 
were those old painters who employed different points of 
time in the same view, and made their figures carry on suc- 
cessive conversations by putting labels in their mouths. The 
painter's choice of this advantageous moment is of the most 
essential consideration, and must depend upon that thorough 
feeling of the whole of this subject, which is the ultimate 
result of whatever physical, ethical, poetical, or other know- 
ledge he may happen to possess. 

Of the numberless possible ways which may be employed 
in the collocation and arrangement of the several objects of 
a picture, that must undoubtedly be the best which most im- 
mediately arises out of the very nature of the subject itself, 
comprehends its greatest scope and energy, is best adapted 
to give the just value and importance to the principal and 
most interesting circumstances, and is least encumbered with 
foreign, useless, impertinent, dead matter, which every thing 
must be that does not contribute in its general and necessary 

The composition should appear the true efflux of a mind 
so heated and full of the subject as to lose all regard and 
attention to every thing foreign. Enthusiasm, genius, taste, 
all the faculties should here concentrate ; for if ever they be 
available in any part of a picture, it is in the happy arrange- 
ment and apposite collocation of those principal and interest- 
ing materials and circumstances upon which the becoming 
beauty, pathos, or dignity of the subject depends ; since the 
particular expressions, passions, actions, or gestures of the 
several personages of the painter's drama can have no value 
but what is derived from their particular adaptation to the 
propriety of each character, and to the becoming part of 
greater or lesser interest, which ought to connect it with the 
scene. In a word, nothing is admissible which does not co- 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

operate. Every co-operating object, action, or circumstance 
must appear in its own proper and most available situation, 
and in no other. Intention must govern throughout, and 
nothing be left to chance. 

It appears, then, young gentlemen, that in the necessary 
exercise of your profession, you will have frequent occasion 
to recur to your education at large ; therefore, look to it in 
time. A shallow, contracted apprehension is incapable of 
conceiving the just latitude and extent of his subject, and 
not likely to see beyond the mere trite, superficial, and ordi- 
nary matters of vulgar observation. While the artist of 
mere imagination also will, without the necessary judgment 
and sound information, be like a hound of a bad nose, liable 
to be diverted from the true pursuit, and to waste his vigour 
in hunting down every trifle that starts in his way ; and in 
either case your mechanical abilities can be but ill employed. 

Thus, then, the desideratum (at least in all matters of ele- 
vated compositions) is, that the artist should possess a great 
and noble mind, of ability to penetrate the depth, entire com- 
pass and capability of his subject; to discern, in one view, 
all its possible circumstances ; to select and unite whatever 
is most essential, most interesting, and of the greatest conse- 
quence to its energetic and happy elucidation ; and to be 
able, at the same time, judiciously and severely to reject and 
suppress whatever useless exuberances may have arisen from 
the heat and fertility of his imagination. 

In the discourse upon design, much has been argued res- 
pecting the necessity of interesting the spectator by the 
selection of beautiful, sublime, or other extraordinary charac- 
ters. These are certainly valuable in themselves, independ- 
ent of all other considerations ; but this value is much 
increased when, to the native persuasion of such characters, 
there is added all those expressive incidents, coinciding asso- 
ciated energies, and concatenated graces of an ingenious and 
eloquent composition. 

This eloquence of the painter's composition, which, like 
almost all the other parts of modern art, seems to have re- 
ceived so much efficacy and value from the deep researches 
of Leonardo da Yinci, is susceptible of the utmost conceiv- 
able force, extent, and variety, as is abundantly evident in 
the works of many of his successors who pursued the same 




principles. Nothing of verbal language can be more copious, 
beautifully diffusive, and magnificent than the eloquence of 
Raphael's Dispute of the Sacrament ; nothing can be more 
condensed and vehement in its address than his Elymas and 
Death of Ananias ; than the Plague and Deluge of Poussin ; 
the Dead Christ of [Lodovico] Carracci, in the Palais 
Royal * ; the Possessed Boy, by Domenichino j" ; and, above 
all, the group of the Laocoon, in the Belvedere. 

There is nothing can be attended with more substantial 
benefit to the young student than to familiarise himself with 
those models of eloquent composition which his profession 
affords, by endeavouring to investigate and to possess himself 
of all the reasons upon which those compositions were con- 
structed, and why such and such identical actions, charac- 
ters, circumstances, modes, degrees, and arrangements were 
introduced in preference to every other. By such studies the 
mind of the student will insensibly acquire an habitual great- 
ness and expansion ; and when it comes to think for itself, 
and to search out materials for its own works, vigour, pro- 
priety, and dignity will be the natural concomitants of what- 
ever flows from it. This is the only use that can or ought 
to be made of the compositions of those great men who have 
gone before us ; and in this sense you cannot bestow too 
much attention upon such compositions as the Paul Preaching 
at Athens, the Last Supper by Da Vinci, the Sick Alexander 
by Le Sueur, Le Brun's Tent of Darius and Passage of the 
Granicus, the Gathering of Manna, the Moses Striking Water 
from the Rock, the Confirmation, and a great many other 
works of Poussin, whose versatile genius, well-grounded 
judgment, and deep, as well as extensive elegant information 
have carried him with equal success through all the genera 
of composition. 

Whatever be the main scope of the subject, and whatever 
materials it may with propriety afford, whether of the simple, 
pathetic, or heroic and sublime kind — the first and chief 
attention of the composition should be to dispose such mate- 
rials in the manner best calculated to enforce and ennoble 
this main scope or end, which the subject proposes, and to 

* Now at Castle Howard. — - W. 

f Fresco in the Chapel of San Nilo at Grotta Ferrata, near Frascati. 
— W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

reject or carry into the parts of least consequence whatever 
does not contribute to this end. For example, in the subject 
of Laocoon, the principal aim of the artists should be (as it 
has been) to impress upon the mind of the spectator those 
emotions of terror and pity which must arise from that 
climax of distress exhibited in the unavailing efforts of an 
agonizing father and his children, the children calling upon 
the father for assistance, and he upon Heaven that has aban- 
doned him to his fate. 

A second consideration of interest, and which greatly en- 
forces the first, is the graceful, beautiful forms of the chil- 
dren, and the noble, vigorous, athletic figure of the father, 
which is admirably calculated to exhibit those convulsed 
gripings which agitate every part. If agreeable to the 
absurd wishes of some shallow critics, these sons of Laocoon 
had been of the same soft, pulpy texture as the children of 
Fiamingo, besides being fitter for the nursery than as attend- 
ants upon the altar, their little bladder -like forms would 
have been incapable of discovering any interior agitation. 
It may be further observed, that were these figures encum- 
bered with drapery, it could have no relation to the main 
end : it would then be occupying space to no purpose, or, 
what is worse, to a bad purpose, as it must divert or divide 
the attention to inanimate things, foreign to the main end, 
and interrupt the unity of this expression of agony and dis- 
tress, which should be pursued throughout. Besides the 
variety arising from the different ages and characters of these 
figures, their actions and positions are so diversified, that in 
every view of this admirable group the eye is presented with 
a combination of circumstances and aspects, so beautifully 
varied from each other, that it is difficult to say which is the 
most to be admired, the vehement, direct, and uniform 
address of the subject, or the graceful and skilfully variegated 
manner in which it is communicated. 

Pietro da Cortona has treated this subject upon quite 
other principles. Blind as he was to all its grandeur, pathos, 
and real excellence, his composition was, as usual, thrown 
away upon what is, in many cases, mistakenly called the 
picturesque arrangement of heights and distances, lines, 
angles, and other mechanical, subordinate attentions ; which 
may be of prime consequence in trifling subjects, but which, 




in such cases as the present, should never be sought after 
but as aids and agreeable attendants upon those matters 
of higher consideration, which never enter the thoughts of 
unfeeling and mere mechanical fabricators of composition. 
Such men do but disgrace themselves in great subjects. 
The matters of art are suited to all capacities, when artists 
know how to make a prudent choice; from still life 
upwards every man might find something of a-piece with 

The Cartoon, in which is represented the death of Ana- 
nias, is another, and a most admirable example of expres- 
sive energetic composition. Raphael has here with great 
judgment and ingenuity so connected all the parts of his 
subject, as to afford the happiest illustration of this dreadful 
instance of divine vengeance. On one side of the apostles 
the people are bringing their substance for the common 
participation ; on the other, it is distributed according to 
every man's occasion, and in the centre is exhibited the 
punishment of that voluntary fraud which Ananias had 
hypocritically attempted. The countenance and action of 
Saint Peter, who delivers the sentence, and of the other 
apostle who shows it to have come down from heaven ; in a 
word, every part of the composition is skilfully expressive 
of the subject, even to the very railing which surrounds the 
apostles, and marks the common repository of this exem- 
plary community. 

The Elymas, the Paul at Athens, the Sacrifice at Lystra, 
the Murder of the Innocents, and almost the whole of those 
ten * designs which Raphael made for the tapestries of the 
pope's chapel, are in the same noble, energetic strain, and 
appear, as I have hinted before, amongst the best and most 
vigorous examples our art affords, of an expressive, judi- 
cious manner of treating compositions of the vehement and 
passionate kind. 

Raphael has also produced the highest examples of excel- 
lence in the more copious and diffusive compositions. His 
picture of the Sacrament f is a lofty strain of divine, poetic 
enthusiasm ; in which, with the utmost feeling and judg- 

* See note, ante, p. 135. — W. 

f The «« Theology," in the Vatican, or what is commonly called the 
Dispute on the Sacrament. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. rv. 

ment, he has happily linked together the sublimest theolo- 
gical ideas. The sacramental host, which is placed on the 
altar, immediately under, and apparently connected with the 
divine persons of the holy Trinity, forms a centre and a 
great uniting principal, which associates all parts of the 
composition, even in despite of a feeble defective chiaro- 
scuro, and some other vestiges of the old Gothic manner ; 
which, were they not borne down by the energy and unity 
of Raphael's ideas, would have gone near to the dissociating 
and maiming the general appearance of this composition. 
However, it is but just to remind you, that an inspection of 
the execution and manner of handling of the upper part and 
right side of this picture must immediately convince an 
artist, that it was the first which Raphael executed in the 
Vatican, and that by the time he had arrived at the left 
hand corner, this feebleness was quite vanished. Every 
thing in this most sublime of all Raphael's compositions, 
which undoubtedly it is, notwithstanding its defects, every 
thing, I say, tends to, and is regulated by, the expression of the 
subject. The whole importance of the celestial part of the 
composition, which seems, as it were, infused in the host on 
the altar, is what visibly gives occasion to all that, beautiful 
variety of action, contemplation, love, and reverence, which 
are so animatedly expressed in the figures that surround it, 
and which is judiciously and feelingly made to coincide with 
the peculiar characters, dispositions, and ages of those pro- 
found doctors, sovereign pontiffs, and simple believers, which 
form this admirable group. 

The same ability, but more equally sustained as to exe- 
cution, is observable in the School of Athens, or, to speak 
more properly, in the Picture of Philosophy. The figures 
which form this great composition, not excepting even the 
portrait of Raphael's friend, the Duke of Urbino, all of them 
seem to have been introduced for the sole purpose of varie- 
gating the action, expression, and sentiment, his subject 
required ; and the several gestures and modes of contem- 
plation, explication, and attention, are not less admirable in 
their diversity than in their assimilation, as the same grave, 
dispassionate, philosophic aspect, is with a happy propriety 
sustained throughout. But whether it was from the want 
of any necessarily obvious, connecting principle in the nature 




of philosophy itself, or from whatever cause, it is certain 
that a general concentrating principle of sentiment seems 
wanting : here appears no source of action, and the matter 
of the composition seems better connected and united than 
the spirit of it : for although the several ranges and groups 
of objects are much better united for the purposes of easy 
and collected vision than they are in the picture of Theo- 
logy, yet, as a totality of expression, there is wanting that 
force and confederated sentiment, which operates so power- 
fully in the theological subject. The two advanced groups 
of the followers of Pythagoras and Archimedes are com- 
plete, independent in themselves, and seem to have little or 
no reference to any other part of the picture ; altogether un- 
connected with Plato and Aristotle, who are in the interior 
and centre, and have been supposed, and were perhaps 
intended, to be a kind of principals in the composition. 
But these, and a few other trifling difficulties, may (as I 
said before) have arisen out of the very nature of the subject 
itself. It was perhaps impossible to introduce into the com- 
position any obvious and sufficiently dignified thing, or 
circumstance, which might comprehend, concentrate, and 
help to specify the several attentions of these disciples of 
mere philosophical, human wisdom. The pronation of Aris- 
totle's hand, and the finger pointing upwards of that of 
Plato, are happily expressive and characteristic ; but are by 
no means sufficient pivots to sustain the whole sentiment of 
the composition. 

These two compositions of Theology and Philosophy 
afford a most instructive and invaluable example of the 
conduct that should be adopted in such abstract compre- 
hensive subjects of the painter's own creation, as are only 
circumscribed by the spirit and essence of things. When 
particular known personages are introduced, it would be 
advisable, for the satisfaction even of the little and least 
generous critics, that the artist should endeavour by some 
ingenious effort to obviate those anachronisms, of which 
Raphael made but little account. His desire of giving those 
subjects all their plenitude, and also of introducing all the 
famous men, who, in their several times, had distinguished 
themselves in each : and the scene being laid upon earth, 
and consequently in time, the anachronisms were of course 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

unavoidable. These compositions might, however, have 
been treated differently, either by not laying the scene in 
time, as is the case in the upper part of the Theology, or 
else by attaching himself to possible general incidents and 
characteristic personages, rather than to those who were 
particular and known. Instead of Epicurus (whose man- 
ners and doctrine were, according to Cicero, so inconsistent 
with each other) the indolent and selfish Epicureans might 
have been represented, and the Pyrrhonians, Stoics, and the 
other sects, might also have been characterised in a similar 
manner. And in that part of the Theology where the 
scene is laid upon earth (instead of S*. Bonaventura, S*. 
Jerome, Gregory, Aquinas, &c, who lived in times so re- 
moved from each other, and who might very well be placed 
in heaven) this terrestrial region might be reserved for the 
several ecclesiastical orders and communities ; the pontifical 
and other dignitaries might be happily characterised; certain 
indications might be given of works of charity, penitence, 
and so forth, and yet all equally co-operate in the general 

Thus, whether we allow ourselves the liberty of com- 
mitting a few trifling anachronisms for the sake of some 
individual advantages ; or whether we avoid them in order 
to obtain a greater or more consistent purity and unity of 
design ; whichever way we may incline, it is evident, from 
those pictures of Raphael, that by a composition of possible 
general incidents, an ingenious and knowing man might 
represent law, medicine, or any other art or science of great 
and general utility. The spirit of ages or nations might be 
thus represented : you might give all the features of a base, 
servile, venal age — trifling, dissipated, and full of those 
mean, selfish hopes and fears which ultimately eradicate all 
virtue, private as well as public ; or you might represent 
times more magnanimous and heroic. Thus you might do 
what, from its imagined impossibility, had been long re- 
garded as one of the fabulous stories of antiquity — that is, 
you might make a portrait of the good people of England, 
which might appear at the same time cruel and merciful, 
wise, foolish, giddy, and so forth, as Parrhasius is said to 
have done of the people of Athens. 

Those compositions of the general kind, where the fable, 




story, or subject, r is of the artist's own creation, may be 
extended to every conceivable action, with all the latitude 
of tragic, comic, or other poetry, and they are often suscep- 
tible of more pertinence and ethic application than those 
actions which are circumscribed by historical or other parti- 
cular known facts. Of this kind is Poussin's Arcadia, the 
Flemish Feast in the Luxembourg, by Rubens*, almost the 
greatest part of Watteau's compositions, Hogarth's Election, 
his Harlot's and Rake's Progress, the Plague by Raphael f, 
and many others. 

When these actions are grounded upon, or interwoven 
with, mere local usages, they are liable to become obscure 
and uninteresting, in proportion as those local usages are 
less generally known : for this reason it is that Raphael's 
Plague, the Extreme Unction, the Confirmation, and other 
invented subjects of Poussin, are more universally intel- 
ligible than those of Hogarth ; even supposing that these 
latter were sufficiently well drawn to invite the attention of 
the spectator, which is far from being the case. However, 
the March to Finchley, and the Tavern Debauch, where one 
of the girls, like another Thais, is setting fire to the globe, 
and some other of his works, where the humour is not 
merely local, ought to be excepted, as the disorders com- 
mitted by the military, the excesses of a tavern, and such 
like, are much the same every where. 

Allowing for some peculiarities of Watteau's affectation 
and Ruben's vulgarity and unnecessary grossness, the gallant 
and festive usages which they have represented, are just as 
familiar to one nation as to another.^ 

* Now in the Louvre. — W. 

f II Morbetto, a drawing in the gallery of the Uffizj at Florence ; it is 
engraved by Marcantonio. — W. 

Jj It would be almost a crime to omit taking notice in this place of 
two very striking pathetic compositions of this general kind, by M. 
Greuze. One is an aged, enraged father, denouncing curses on his son, 
who had been inveigled to go and serve in the army. The other repre- 
sents the return of this undutiful son, maimed in his limbs, as the only 
fruit of his campaign, and struck with the shocking sight of his father, 
who had been worn down with anxiety and fatigue, now stretched out 
dead on a bier in the midst of his forlorn family. 1 

Now in the Louvre. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

In the Attila, the Heliodorus, the Incendio del Borgo, and 
indeed, all other works of Raphael, founded upon particular 
historical facts, it was his constant maxim to endeavour at 
obtaining that arrangement which was best calculated to give 
the most entire, and the most energetic expression of his 
subject. In the Saint Peter delivered from prison, he has 
even given three different points of time in the same view : 
the awaking of Saint Peter, the leading him forth through 
the sleeping guards, and the confusion of the awakened 
guards after he was gone. This fault, like the anachronisms 
before mentioned, is hardly imputable, as it was not com- 
mitted through ignorance, but by election, and although the 
representing the three different effects of the light of the 
angel*, of the torch, and of the moon, may be allowed to 
have had some weight with him, yet without doubt his prin- 
cipal inducement was to give his subject that entireness and 
complete eludication which he was so solicitous to obtain in 
all his works. 

This worthy object of his solicitude is what I would recom- 
mend to your attention, and not the particular conduct which 
he adopted on this occasion. 

Upon the whole, it may be observed, that there is gene- 
rally found in the compositions of Raphael a most beautiful 
and interesting chain of well reasoned and happily variegated 
incidents, a solid, manly judgment, and, above all, a divine, 
enthusiastic warmth, and expressive energy, which has set 
him above all moderns in this branch of the art. 

The allegoric is another species of composition, and has 
been adopted in order to substantiate intellectual subjects, 
by giving them such a form and body as may make them 
known to our senses. But this method of allegorizing, 
whether it be simple and carried through the whole compo- 
sition, or of the partial and mixed kind, where it is blended 
with historical fact, is in both cases so extremely liable to be 
misused, that it can never be safely meddled with, but by 

* In this composition Raphael has introduced that effect which was 
afterwards adopted with so much eclat by Correggio, in his picture of 
the " Notte though those who have expatiated with such enthusiasm on 
its invention by Correggio, have wholly overlooked its previous employ- 
ment by Raphael. All these frescoes are engraved by Volpato and his 
pupils. — W. 




men of much discretion and judgment. Even some of the 
greatest artists have been deservedly censured for the obscu- 
rity of many of those emblematic and allegoric refinements 
which they have sometimes wholly, and often partially, em- 
ployed in their compositions. Many parts of Raphael's 
picture of the Jurisprudence are at present unintelligible. 
His two large figures of Justice and Meekness in the Hall of 
Constantine are in the same state ; with respect to idea, 
they present nothing but a blank to the mind. The same 
may be said of many things in the galleries of the Luxem- 
bourg * and Versailles; and what from the confusion occa- 
sioned by ill-directed flattery, and the jargon of far-fetched 
and over-refined allegory, the ceiling at Whitehall does 
actually present no subject to the mind of the spectator. Asso- 
ciations of mere local, temporary notions, are too mutable 
and evanescent to serve as a durable basis for the sustaining 
of symbols and allegorical personages. When the allusions 
of resemblance do not obviously consist in the things them- 
selves, but in a kind of arbitrary compacts, which are (like 
mere words) confined to a limited number of persons, places, 
and times, there is great likelihood of their soon perishing. 
This truth is sufficiently evident in all the arts, as well in 
those which depend upon language, as in those which employ 
forms, although it has been of more fatal consequence in the 
latter ; for however justly we might complain of the Want of 
simplicity and true taste in Spenser, and other writers, who 
had given into this fashion of allegorizing, yet, from the 
nature of language, their ideas will be ever as intelligible as 
their language ; by a word or two properly placed, it was 
always in their power to carry the reader with them in the 
highest flights of their absurdity, and though they might 
offend his taste and judgment, yet his understanding was 
not darkened. But this matter is quite different in paint- 
ing and sculpture: if the spectator has not the same 
range of thought and sentiment which operated in the con- 
struction of the work, the labour is lost, and, at best, is but 
a blank. 

* The celebrated series of pictures in commemoration of the marriage 
of Henri IV. with Marie de' Medici, and now in the Louvre. The ori- 
ginal sketches, by Rubens, are in the Pinacothek at Munich. — W. 

m 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

What must be said, then, of the absurd collections of Otto 
Venius*, Ripaf, and others, who have been at the pains of 
raking together all this offal of the imagination. However, 
such books may have their use, and serve as a kind of bathos, 
replete with all the low, beggarly allusion, false wit, and im- 
pertinent, trifling refinement which the artist must carefully 

What remains to us of the ancient allegorical personi- 
fications is of a nature quite the reverse. It is simple, 
obvious, and, besides, it makes a part of every man's edu- 
cation, and is long likely so to continue, as the Greek and 
Roman literature is in no danger of losing its credit. All 
civilised nations, that is, almost all nations, are become its 
conservators, and happily there are now no more Goths and 
Vandals, from whom any further destruction is to be appre- 

Of this legitimate kind of allegory many sound examples 
might be instanced. I shall just mention two, which are 
perhaps the more excellent, as their ingenious authors have 
somewhat more than their share in the general participation 
of the subject matter. One is, Time delivering Truth from 
the persecution of Rage and Envy, by Nicholas Poussin. 
The other is the Calumny by Apelies, which Lucian has so 
admirably described, and accompanied by such a suite of 
remarks on the nature of the subject, as, I believe, have 
never been outdone by any observer on life and manners.^ 
From this description of Lucian, Raphael has restored the 
design : and others of no less beauty and pertinence might 
be fabricated on the remarks. 

It is very much to be doubted whether these and such like 
general abstract compositions are not of all others the most 
full, complete, and eloquent, and carry with them the most 
comprehensive, ethical application. The representation of 
some one similar historical fact might perhaps interest the 
passions more (yet of this I am not certain), but it would 

* Otto Van Veen, the master of Rubens, made a set of Allegorical 
Illustrations of Horace. Zinneheelden, getrohken uit Horatius Flaccus, 
&c. Amsterdam, 1683. — W. 

f Cav. Cesare Ripa ; lie wrote a book on Iconclogy, which was en- 
larged by the Cav. Gio. Z. Castellini. Icoiwlogia, &c. Ven. 1645. — W. 

1 See note, ante, p. 133. — W. 




not fill the mind, and come home to all the occasions of 
general application like the allegoric composition. 

Of the mixed composition of allegoric and historic fact, 
Rubens has in one respect given a very admirable specimen 
in his Judgment of Paris.* The allegoric expedient of the 
Fury, who is bursting through the clouds, leads the mind 
into all the terrible consequences of the decision ; and nothing 
can better show what should and should not be done on these 
occasions, where allegory is blended with history, than the 
comparison of this sublime conception of Rubens with the 
over-refined allegories of the Scamander, Simois, the Nymphs, 
and other trifling addenda of cold details, which spoil that 
otherwise most excellent design, which Raphael has left us 
on the same subject.f 

There are, then, some few occasions where the allegoric 
composition may (when in the hands of a wise, ingenious, 
and feeling artist) be adopted in preference to any other. 
But the student cannot be too often reminded, that when 
these occasions occur (which can be but seldom) he must in 
nowise indulge himself in any silly, unwarranted conceits of 
his own fancy. His invention must consist in the disposition 
of old, and not in the creation of new things. The figures 
and symbols he employs must address the spectators in the 
language received, and well understood, and not in any short- 
lived emblematic jargon. In the instances I have mentioned 
from Poussin and Apelles, the subject or action is substan- 
tially and fully explained by the figures themselves : as it 
would have been in any particular historical or invented fact. 
The insignia of the figures can add nothing to the explication 
and interest of the action ; though they raise the personages, 
from mere historic individuals, into the abstract, and more 
sublime characters of Time, Eternity, Rage, and Envy. 

One cannot without some astonishment reflect on the ridi- 
culous allegoric absurdities which have been so frequently 
committed in sepulchral monuments ; the place of all others 
where we might expect to find something solemn, direct, 
pathetic ; of a plain, manly sense ; useful, exemplary, and 

* Now in the National Gallery. — »W. 

f Drawing : engraved by Marcantonio and others. There is a small 
picture of the same subject in the Corsini Palace, attributed to Giulio 
Romano. — W. 

m 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. iv. 

utterly devoid of all the fripperies and impertinence of mere 
wit. There are no occasions where the operations of a 
great mind could have been more effectually manifested ; and 
it is much to be regretted that so many noble opportunities, 
and such immense sums of money, should be so shamefully 
and idly thrown away upon mere manual labour, as if there 
had been no such thing as mind in the country. I shall 
mention one expedient, which, if it could be adopted, might 
help to do away a great deal of this impertinent trifling. 
When the life of the deceased may have been of that un- 
meddling, retired nature, as not to furnish any adequate 
materials for the subject of such a monument as his friends 
might wish to have erected ; instead of torturing allegory to 
no purpose, or more probably to a bad purpose, recourse 
may be had to the numberless subjects our religion might 
afford. Even many exemplary subjects of moral action 
might be invented, agreeably to the wishes of the testator or 
his friends. This would open a noble field for sculpture, in 
the round, in basso-rilievo, or both, and of the most interest- 
ing kind ; the dead might be made to address the living after 
a becoming manner, and a honourable reputation would na- 
turally accrue to all the parties concerned, by thus converting 
into a matter of utility, and moral advantage, that which is 
but too often nothing better than an unintelligible mass, or 
a mere nuisance of flattery and falsehood.* 

* Sepulchral monuments being a kind of affectionate conservation, 
and embalming of the dead, in order| to retain as much as maybe their 
character and memory still with us ; from the sums expended in erect- 
ing them, the publicity of their situations, and durability of their exist- 
ence — from all these considerations united, it would seem a matter of 
much importance, that they should be executed in the best, and most 
adequate manner, and not afford subject for ridicule and contempt, in- 
stead of admiration and praise ; more especially when it be considered, 
that these monuments are more easily accessible, than anything else in 
the country, to the inspection of strangers, who may be utterly unac- 
quainted with the influence, and jobbing, by which the doing of them is 
obtained ; particularly in those monuments, done at the expense of the 
nation, and of particular societies. 

With respect to those more important monuments, consecrated to the 
memory of heroes and great men, it is a very arduous undertaking to 
attempt any thing further than the inscription, and a characteristic repre- 
sentation of the person; depending on the notoriety and celebrity of his 
character for the rest: however desirable it may be to do more, yetjtis 




There is a kind of arrangement which is altogether mecha- 
nical, and does not deserve the name of composition ; par- 
ticularly when it is employed in associating objects which 
are susceptible of action and connected sentiment, and can 
never be supposed to exist together without them. This un- 
meaning arrangement is hardly admissible amongst the inani- 
mate objects of nature: but the human character, such per- 
sonages as St. Mark, St. Nicholas, St. Catharine, St. Sebastian, 
and so forth, ought never to be brought together without 
story, business, or connexion, merely to be exhibited like a 
parcel of chairs, tables, or other furniture : and yet some of 
the greatest artists have given their sanction to these and 
the like absurdities ; unhappily necessitated, as they were, to 
lay aside their own judgment and to adopt the dreams and 
visions of their silly employers.* This was evidently the 
case in the Saint Jerome of Correggio, in the Saint Nicholas, 
and Saint Mark of Titian, and in many other works. How- 
ever, some good has arisen out of this evil ; as those great 
artists have apparently endeavoured in some measure to 
atone for this want of subject by a more than ordinary solici- 
tude in giving what perfection they could to the other parts. 
Correggio has been enabled, by the double attention he has 

dangerous ; for to appreciate, portray, and properly transmit to posterity 
an adequate representation of the peculiar merits of great men, requires 
extraordinary mental qualifications in the artist ; — an enterprise with 
that bow, which is only to be drawn by Ulyssian nerves. It should be 
permitted only to a hero to commemorate a hero : and it is only from 
the hand and masterly felicity of a Tacitus, Diodorus, or a Xenophon, 
that we can reasonably expect those beautiful monumental-like eulogiums 
upon a Thraseas Partus, a Priscus, Epaminondas, or Socrates, which, 
like gems of a trancendent lustre, gracefully intervene to render the 
rubbish and ordinary tissue of human transactions supportable. Does 
the sculptor, who would wish to immortalise his work by appreciating 
and setting in an advantageous view the characteristic peculiar excellence 
of an Alfred, a Sir Thomas More, or Sir F. Bacon, does he, or ought he 
to expect to succeed without similar requisites ? Is it not from an ade- 
quate comprehension and elevation of mind that we are entitled to hope 
for success either in writing or in art ? What can the employers of 
inadequate artists think ; or, rather, do they think at all ? 

* The employers of these painters were not silly ; such pictures were 
not produced as mere works of art, but as high religious exponents, as 
incentives to piety and evidences of devotion. The sitlyness, if it exist, is 
in the promoters and supporters of a faith which inculcates a reliance on 
human mediation, and intercession of saints. — W. 

m 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV, 

"bestowed on the Infant Jesus, to give some sentimental con- 
nexion to the parts of his arrangement, but in the others 
every principle of association and connexion is wanting, ex- 
cept such as i3 necessary for the mere mechanical distribu- 
tion of the parts as a whole, so as not to offend the sight 

After the preceding reasoning and examples, by which I 
wished to impress upon your mind the necessity of regarding 
the expression of the subject, as the primary object of the 
composition, it remains now that we take some notice of 
those more mechanical attentions to the mere distribution of 
the several objects, by which they are rendered agreeable in 
their several situations, and are altogether made to concur in 
forming one entire and complete totality, of easy compre- 
hension to the sight. 

Different integrals or totalities may be equally entire and 
complete, although their configuration and their several dis- 
tributions and arrangements be very different from each 
other, and although some of them might incline to the more 
uniform, and others to the more variegated appearance, ac- 
cording to what the sentiment of the subject may require ; 
since the more uniform may be rendered productive of gran- 
deur, and the more variegated of beauty. In these particular 
cases, the quantity or degree of this uniformity or variety 
must be regulated by the sentiment proper to the subject. 
But on all occasions whatever, some modification and judici- 
ous co-operation of these two opposite principles of uniformity 
and variety is absolutely necessary, in order to render every 
whole and its component parts an object agreeable, or,, at 
least, not disagreeable to the sight. But these, as well as all 
other things, have their destined limits ; and the student must 
be well aware that a too great uniformity, or a dull repetition 
of the same things, without any diversity in their forms, as- 
pects, and other circumstances, must be insipid, tiresome, 
and disgusting : and, on the other hand, a too great variety 
and affectation of continued and strongly-marked diversity 
and contrast must perplex, distract the sight, and destroy 
all unity of idea and comprehension. These extremes, there- 
fore, are equally reprehensible, and have been for similar 
reasons judiciously avoided by all good composers, in every 
other art, as well as in those of design. 

That the whole of the composition may with ease and 

I/ECT. IV.] 



pleasure to the spectator be comprehended in one view, it is 
necessary that its several parts (however variegated in their 
details) be so artfully linked together as to form one general 
appearance, consisting of a few large parts, masses, or groups 
of objects. But whether the several parts of this concatenated 
mass be on the same, or on different plans, it is equally neces- 
sary, that although they be so united as to form an easy con- 
currence into one general view, yet they are not to be crowded 
or huddled together : their separation and distinctness from 
each other are objects of no less consequence than their union. 
The several portions or masses of this general appearance 
should be diversified either in their magnitude or figure, or 
some in both. Of these masses one ought to be principal, and 
all the others dependent and subordinate ; and as the atten- 
tion will therefore necessarily centre on this principal mass, 
it follows of course, that whatever is intended to be of the 
greatest interest in the composition will appear more properly, 
and to the greatest advantage, as forming the whole or a part 
of this principal mass. As to the general shape or form of 
the principal and its subordinate groups, taken together, 
whether it incline to the pyramidal, either erect, inverted, 
laterally, or horizontally placed, or to any other figure, this 
is a matter entirely arbitrary ; the only attention employed 
on this occasion is to guard against the too great regularity, 
sameness, and equality of parallel, rectilinear, rectangular, 
or even too circular appearances. In a word, whatever be 
the general figure of these concatenated groups, it should 
neither be too regular, nor too complicated, and it is rather 
to be loosely or obscurely indicated or hinted, than clearly 
and specifically defined. The several parts of this con- 
catenated mass should preserve some kind of equilibrium 
and symmetrical order amongst themselves, that nothing 
may appear wanting to its completion as a whole ; and in the 
same manner that the several masses or groups are attached 
to each other, that nothing may appear entirely insulated 
or detached in all its parts, the several figures and other 
component parts of a group must in some part of its contour 
or drapery be, as it were, let into or interwoven with the 
next object. 

Useless repetition is disgusting ; I say useless repetition, 
because it sometimes happens that it is necessary to repeat 


barhy's lectures. 

[lect. rv> 

the same action or gesture, and even to extend it through 
many figures, from whose general co-operation its energy is 
to be derived ; but even in this case it is desirable to make 
some light variations in the circumstances, appendages, or 
such parts as are not essential to this concurrence. For 
in general the eye as well as the mind is in a continual pro- 
gress, always desirous of something that hath not been yet 

By this variety and continued diversity in the actions, 
gestures, and aspects of the several figures, it is not to be 
understood that their contrasts should be very violent ; it is 
not necessary that if one arm is advanced forwards the other 
should be carried backwards, or that the back view of one 
figure should be contrasted with the front view of another. 
This extreme and direct opposition is too fierce and violent 
to produce a pleasing effect ; it would be even too regular, 
would want novelty, and must defeat the very purpose which 
it was intended to answer, since your stock of variety would 
by this means be too scanty and soon exhausted. These 
violent contrasts are sometimes useful, where you want to 
produce interruption ; but in general the end of variety is 
better answered by slight transitions in the several possible 
aspects and degrees of action, and these are numberless : as 
in any one given action of a figure many intermediate views 
might be taken even between the front and lateral ones, 
which will be sufficiently different for the purpose of variety; 
how much more, then, when you may indulge the liberty of 
such small variations in the action itself, as may fairly arise 
from temper, habit, or other circumstances. The School of 
Athens is very admirable in this respect : there is nothing of 
affected antithesis, or studied contrast in the whole compo- 
sition. Unconscious and unsolicitous of the spectator's at- 
tention, the several groups and figures seem to have no 
retrospect to any thing but their proper employment. The 
beautiful variations which diversify every part of this exten- 
sive composition are carried on by such easy transitions as 
are at once most grateful to the view, most capable of endless 
extension, and the least ostentatious and liable to detection. 
Thus, by the highest and most laborious efforts of study, 
Raphael has been enabled to conceal every appearance of 
artful management. 


One has a pleasure in pursuing those mechanical attentions 
of composition in Raphael ; and much more in the fine an- 
tiques, where they are even carried still farther, with a 
higher and more studied accuracy ; as it was natural to ex- 
pect, from the extreme solicitude of the Grecian artists to 
preserve beautiful, and agreeably variegated forms, in every 
aspect of their works. When the highest possible association 
of those mechanical attentions is thus worthily employed in 
decorating and giving the last perfection to beautiful, or ma- 
jestic form, and to interesting and sublime action, the mind 
is satisfied ; every thing is then in its becoming and proper 
place ; small and trifling particulars are no longer such 
when thus dignified by these exalted associations. We can 
then pursue with pleasure, even with enthusiasm, the skilful 
manner in which the sculptor of Laocoon has obviated the 
disagreeable parallel appearances, and the void occasioned 
by the necessary action of the left arm : how usefully and 
agreeably is the hiatus or chasm between the legs of the 
father filled up by the drapery, and by the noble contortions 
of the serpents which bind the whole together, break it into 
agreeable angles, and give the necessary massive appearance 
which should predominate in this place. Also the almost 
rectangular appearance, occasioned by the raising of the 
right knee, is done away by the inclination and action of 
the younger son, which fills the void. 

It would be ungenerously anticipating your satisfaction to 
pursue the many similar detailed observations which this 
glorious group affords. Go to it yourselves — it will abun- 
dantly repay your attentions, as well in study of the me- 
chanical, as of the ideal perfections. 

Some people, particularly artists, have affected to doubt 
whether the ancient Greeks were acquainted with those re- 
gulations of uniformity and variety which constitute what 
is called picturesque composition. This group of the Laocoon 
ought to have shown them how little reason there was for 
such doubts : nay, even the Apollo, the Hercules Farnese, 
and many other single figures, are evidently constructed 
upon the same harmonious principles of picturesque compo- 
sition that is pursued in a group of many figures. The 
totality is the same, of whatever number of parts it be com- 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

If modern art is sometimes unjustly and ignorantlj under- 
rated by some mere antiquaries and others, who affect to 
confine their whole admiration and attention to the labours 
of past ages, this invidious business may be regretted, but 
cannot be helped. Horace is a witness, that it is a nuisance 
which has existed even in the very best ages, when there was 
less reason to expect it ; and that it arises more out of jealousy 
to the abilities and fame of our cotemporaries, than from any 
sincere conviction of the superiority of past times : however, 
but a few can have ability sufficient to be chargeable with 
this ungenerous conduct — the herd is more excusable, and 
rather to be pitied than blamed ; for in general their know- 
ledge is of books, and not of arts ; and they are so little 
acquainted with any real principles of judgment, which only 
can enable them to determine in all new occurrences, that 
rather than give up the unhappy vanity of being thought 
connoisseurs and sound judges, they are necessarily obliged 
(in order to conceal the real state of the fact) to adopt only 
the eulogiums which are upon record, and to affect an utter 
disregard for every thing else. But the reverse of wrong is 
not always right ; let us not, as artists, take our measures of 
conduct out of pure opposition to such people, by running 
into the opposite extreme. That which dishonours them 
can do us no credit ; and besides, it will ill become us to 
forget our obligations to our illustrious predecessors in the 
art, and to attempt stripping them of any part of that praise 
which they may fairly and justly claim. Let us in justice 
to the art make but little account of the composition of the 
^Niobe, of the Toro Farnese*, of the greatest part of the pic- 
tures at Herculaneum ; and, if you will, of a great number of 
the basso-rilievos. But let us not say that the ancients were 
unacquainted with the principles of harmonious composition, 
whilst there are so many admirable monuments which evi- 
dence the eontrary.f 

* In the Museo Bevbonico at Naples. This is the most complicated 
group remaining in ancient sculpture. Amphion and Zethus tie Dirce 
to the horns of a wild bull to revenge the injuries of their mother, An- 
tiope. — W. 

f These principles of harmonious composition are, after all, but of 
secondary consideration, and in the order of things, must, whenever the 
nature and circumstances of the subject require it, give place to that 
truth and energetic expression of the business in hand which is the prime 




As art is of a two-fold nature, consisting of the ideal and 
the mechanical, it has so happened, that when arts have been 

object. Of this truth a better instance could not be given than in that 
admirable statue of the Discobolus, in the collection of Mr. Tovvnley. 
The figure is stooping forwards with a considerable curvature of the 
back, the left arm hanging across the body so as to have the hand in 
contact with the right knee : the right arm holding the Discus, being 
flung back as far as may be, and in an insulated line almost perpendi- 
cular to the curve of the body, and the left leg and foot dragging behind 
with the toes bent backwards, griping the earth, so as to produce the 
greater impetus in the general discharge of the succeeding action ; where 
the discus is to be sent forward with the greatest possible force. 

Although these contrivances of the animal body appear almost to b? 
instinctive, yet, as we have had occasion to observe in the last discourse, 
they are progressional in the acquirement, not only in the human frame, 
but in that of all other animal bodies ; however differently the mechanism 
of each may be contrived for the peculiar adaptation to their several 

The coiling up of a serpent, the squatting, gathering up, and contrac- 
tion of the parts of a cat, a horse, or a man, operate in the same manner 
as a wound-up spring or a bent bow; with, however, an observable advan- 
tage in the human body, resulting from its erect posture, and the accu- 
mulated force obtained from gravitation in occasionally carrying the 
weight of its upper limbs so much out of the centre of its equilibrium 
on both sides during the discharge. 

There is a repetition of this figure of the Discobolus (with only the 
difference of the turn of the head) in the possession of the Marchese 
Massimi, which the Abbate Fea, in his Roman edition of Winckelmann, 
proves by a passage from Lucian to have been copied from the famous 
Discobolus in bronze of Myron. On my first seeing this figure at Mr. 
Townley's, at Torso in the capitol at Rome, of which I had made some 
drawings, occurred to my recollection immediately. It is restored as a 
fallen gladiator, by the famous M. Le Gros, and was evidently in its 
ancient state the same figure as this of Mr. Townley and that at the 
Massimi. The Marquis of Lansdowne has also another Torso of the same 
figure restored as a Diomed ; and there is another restored as one of the 
sons of Niobe. For the reasons adduced by the Abbate Fea, all these 
five marble repetitions of this Discobolus, which had been dug up in 
different places, are evidently copies of the same original, and are glorious 
testimonies of the great estimation in which the bronze of Myron was 
held by the ancients. The position of the head hanging down in the 
same direction as the body, is very remarkable in Mr. Townley's figure, 
as it is a deviation from the original of Myron, as described by Lucian, 
and consequently from the Massimi copy, which corresponds perfectly 
with that description. In all other respects these figures agree, and 
this deviation appears to have been not unwisely made, as in this way 
all ambiguity in the intention of the figure by the direction of the eyes 
(which are not wanting in the action) is ingeniously avoided; and in 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

nearly perfected by the consecutive labours of great men, the 
necessary operations of the mere mechanical conduct will by 
that time be reduced to such sure principles of practice, as 
that they may be exercised apart, when they fall (as in the 
unavoidable course of things must soon happen) into the 
hands of men of mean intellects, who, incapable of meddling 
with the ideal, will operate solely with these mechanical prin- 
ciples, as their entire stock of trade, and thus bring about a 
separation between the body and the soul of art, with very 
little prospect of their being happily re-united afterwards. 
Every art will furnish but too many instances of these com- 

nnishing the action, at least an equal acceleration of impetus is pro- 
duced, by the head shooting upwards and forward, along with the other 

This, to the best of my recollection, is the only work of any of the 
celebrated ancient sculptors of which even any copy remains ; for the 
sculptors of the Laocoon, though much and justly extolled for this per- 
formance, are not enumerated with the artists of the first class ; though 
they must certainly stand in that rank with us. 

But, to come back to our Discobolus, in Mr. Townley's collection. 
Besides its admirable expression of the subject, many views of its lower 
limbs and their sublime proportions call to one's recollection the noble 
style of design of Annibal Carracci in the Farnese Gallery, and are the 
best vouchers for its sublimity, value, and preference, to any other style 
of design adopted by the painters of the old schools. 

By way of parenthesis, it will not be foreign to our purpose to men- 
tion here a particular respecting this Discobolus of Myron, which also 
furnishes an admirable illustration of what I thought myself so much 
obliged to insist upon in the second discourse, with regard to the ineffi- 
cacy and uncertainty of even the best chosen mere words, when compared 
with the things themselves. Lucian, whose credit as a line writer stands 
in the highest estimation, who was for some part of his time bred a sta- 
tuary, and who seems to be the only ancient writer, now preserved, who 
had such a thorough and familiar knowledge of the arts of painting and 
sculpture as to write accurately on the productions of either, has, in one 
of his dialogues, so described this Discobolus of Myron, that when the 
Massimi Discobolus was discovered in 1782, the Abbate Fea found from 
this passage that it was a copy of Myron's bronze figure, and followed 
up his discovery with this remarkable observation : " It is, however, to 
be confessed, that it is only by the inspection of this figure, we rightly 
comprehend Lucian's meaning, which, for want of it, has hitherto been 
mistaken by the interpreters and commentators ; and that a just version 
of it can now be given." Here the abbot instances interpretations of 
some of the words of this passage by the learned Gesner, by Solanus, and 
Reitzius, which are laughably absurd and ridiculous. [See the notice of 
Mtron in the supplement to the Penny Cyclopaedia, — W.] 


positions of mere manual dexterity. How frequently has it 
been found that a musical composer, without either under- 
standing or sensibility as a man, may, notwithstanding, as 
an artist, be so furnished with mechanical information in his 
concords and discords, his harmonical arrangements of firsts, 
thirds, fifths, and a long et cetera of proportionate relations, 
as to entertain the ear for hours together, without any 
the least regard to that imitation of passion and manners 
which have been thought so essential in this as well as in 
other arts. So it has often happened in the painter's com- 
position ; it might have required great abilities to have first 
discovered that picturesque harmony depended upon certain 
proportionate conjunctions of uniformity and variety; but 
this knowledge once communicated and exemplified in some 
illustrious instances, the further continuance and prosecution 
of it became a matter of mechanical operation, arising out of 
mere habit and dextrous application. ; 

Whether these conjunctions of uniformity and variety be 
considered as relating to the lines and angles formed by the 
contours and surfaces of the component parts ; or to the ar- 
rangement of the different degrees in the chiaroscuro of those 
parts ; or in the degrees and quantities of the more uniform 
or more variegated hues and tints of colour (for the mere 
harmony of a composition extends to all these particulars, 
and may be equally put in practice without any great atten- 
tion paid to the essential qualities of the things so composed) 

— whether they be hogs or heroes — whether flowers, fruit, 
dead game, kettles, pans, and the other utensils of a kitchen 

— the objects surrounding a death bed, or those composing a 
triumph — whether the objects be well or ill chosen, drawn 
or characterised — to the mechanical composer it is all a 
matter of perfect indifference, his only solicitude is about the 
harmonious manner of arranging them. 

An agreeable arrangement of the ingenious Mr. Cozens's 
fortuitous blots, will answer just as well as one that is chained 
down to the specific properties of natural objects. 

Many agreeable examples of this mere harmonious arrange- 
ment may be found in the compositions of Ciro Ferri, Cor- 
tona, Lanfranco, and of Correggio, upon whom the others 
were formed. 

But notwithstanding that these harmonical attentions seem 


bajiry's lectures. 

J [lect. v. 

to have been the prevailing principle of Correggio's ad- 
mirable composition in the Duomo at Parma, yet this, as 
well as all his other works, is so impregnated with a certain 
elevated style of design and graceful sentiment, that we are 
hardly conscious (at least for some time) of the absence of 
some of those higher requisites which distinguish the compo- 
sitions of Raphael, and the antique. 

As to Lanfranco, Gorton a, Ferri, and the others of this 
leaven, their composition is in general more agreeable, and 
rises in its value in proportion to the insipidity of the sub- 
ject ; as must ever be the case with those who are destitute 
of the higher excellence, and yet these three men are cer- 
tainly in the number of the ablest mechanical artists. But 
when the mind looks for great exertions, it will reject with 
disgust any attempt to satisfy it with matters of inferior im- 

Let so much suffice at present for composition, whether it 
regards the several circumstances of an action, or the detailed 
portions and members of any other integral or totality. 

I shall (God willing) in my next Lecture, lay before you 
such observations on Chiaroscuro, as appear to be of the most 
essential importance. The chiaroscuro is properly a part 
of composition, and its expressive or agreeable arrangement 
must follow as a consequence, from the previous disposition 
of those lines, angles, and surfaces, which have been already 

Lecture V. — On Chiaroscuro. 


In the subject of our consideration this night, it may be 
for the purpose previously to take notice, that there has not 
been as yet, any proper and accurate term adopted in the 
English language for that part of the art which is understood 
by the Italian word chiaroscuro, and the French, clair- 
obscur. By these foreign words is meant that general result 
which is effected by the several co-operating gradations of 
the light and dark objects of a picture, ns well where those 
lights and darks arise from what is called the proper and in- 

LECT. V.] 



herent colour of the objects, as where they arise only from 
the several degrees of illumination and shadow. 

We have generally called this part of the art the light and 
shade, words which, when thus contrasted to each other, give 
a very inadequate and stinted idea, which does not reach 
above half the desired extent, as it does not comprehend all 
those chiaros and scuros, lights and darks, which, whether 
they be in the shade or not, do so essentially concur in a well 
arranged expressive chiaroscuro. Neither does the clear- 
obscure (which an ingenious writer has adopted) come fully 
to the desired point, for the word clear is at least equivocal, 
our idea of clear colours and light colours being not the same. 
The general light and shade is also a phrase incorrect and 
inadequate, for there may be a beautiful and very forcible 
chiaroscuro in a picture, by the mere opposition of light and 
dark colours, though almost all the objects should be in the 
light, and consequently little or no shade in the picture. 
This is often found in many of Vandyck's, and other por- 
traits, where the heavy colours of the drapery, and other ad- 
jacent similar matters, contrast with the light colours, and pro- 
duce the desired effect without any heavy or extensive shadows. 

Chiaroscuro, clairobscur, literally rendered, is light- da rk ; 
a word which, besides being uncouth to an English ear, 
would be also ambiguous, as it might be mistaken for the 
discrimination of a species of dark of the lighter kind, from 
one still darker. Usage has, notwithstanding, reconciled the 
French and Italians to the appropriation of this term, though 
in the beginning it must have been equally uncouth and 
equivocal to them, as it would be to us without the particle 
(and), light and dark, chiaro e oscuro, which reduces it to 
the separate materials of which the word was originally 
formed. But as lam not of weight sufficient to give currency 
to this new term of light-dark, and as the words light and 
dark are in general use, and fully comprehend whatever can 
be understood by the appropriate term, chiaroscuro, I shall, 
in speaking of this part of our art, use the w r ords light and 
dark, or chiaroscuro, in preference to light and shade, which, 
for the reasons already given, are found to be inadequate, 
defective, and tending to mislead.* 

* Chiaroscuro itself is now an established term in English art-litera- 
ture. — W. 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

The indispensable necessity of selection, or judicious choice 
in all the component parts of a picture, has been urged at 
some length in a former discourse, and in no part of the art 
is this truth more evident than in that which is now the sub- 
ject of our attention : for it does greatly depend upon the 
happy or unskilful distribution of the lights and darks, whe- 
ther objects shall present themselves with that disgusting 
confusion and embarrassment which distract our sight, or 
with that unity and harmony which we can never behold 
without pleasure. There are times when the scenes about 
Hyde Park, Richmond, Windsor, and Blackheath, appear 
very little interesting. The difference between a meridian 
and evening light, the reposes of extensive shadow, the half 
lights and catching splendours that those scenes sometimes 
exhibit, compared with their ordinary appearance, do abun-* 
dantly show how much is gained by seizing upon those transi- 
tory moments of fascination, when nature appears with such 
accumulated advantage. IF this selection be so necessary 
respecting objects intrinsically beautiful, how much more 
studiously ought it to be endeavoured at, when we are obliged 
to take up with matters of less consequence. How many of 
the deservedly esteemed productions of the Flemish and 
Dutch schools would be thrown aside, as intolerable and dis- 
gusting, were it not for the beautiful effects of their judicious 
distribution of the lights and darks. Art is selection ; it is 
perfect when this selection is pursued throughout the whole, 
and it is even so valuable when extended but to a part only, 
as to become a passport for the rest. 

Whether communicated light be any thing emitted from a 
luminous body, or whether it arises from any adaptation in 
the solid particles, or least interstitial parts of the surfaces 
of objects, to exhibit the image of the luminary in proportion 
to the degree of their compactness,, or smoothness (as is evi- 
dently the case in the pupil of the eye and other smooth sur- 
faces), — whatever the energy of light may be, or however It 
be communicated, is perhaps a knowledge not to be obtained, 
in which happily we are not concerned. Our business is 
not with its nature, but with its visible effects. As to shade, 
though it is the inseparable concomitant of light on all 
opaque bodies, yet certainly it is nothing in itself but a mere 
negation, a privation, and absence of light occasioned by the 

LECT. V.] 



interposition of the opaque parts of bodies : however (to us 
at least), it is not a mere nonentity ; for as light is a principle 
the most active and procreative, is immediately communicated 
to all the objects directly before it, and by them so reflected 
or exhibited as to be visible (though with diminished lustre) 
in all that plenitude of objects that surround us, according 
to the direction of their several surfaces, so its total absence 
is merely a privation ; and nothing, however shadowed, is so 
absolutely blotted out, at least to us, as to prevent the returns 
of vision from co-operating with the information of our other 
senses with respect to the whole or parts of their proper ob- 
jects. On the other hand, this opposition of shade to light 
occasioned by the opacity of objects, and the interruption of 
their surfaces, is not only one great cause that objects are 
seen, but it also, by its various degrees of strength and weak- 
ness, affords the means to judge of the distance at which we 
see them : and this holds in the degrees of light and dark 
with respect to the hues of colour, as well as in those where 
the mere strength or weakness of light and shadow is only 

As all objects become indistinct, and are lost to the sight, 
in proportion as they are left in obscurity, so all the parts of 
objects exposed to the light are more distinctly seen and ap- 
pear more made out and determined than the parts in shadow. 
In the same manner all hues of colour are proportionably 
confounded and perish in obscurity, and they receive their 
lustre and their characteristic discriminations from each 
other but in proportion as they approach the light : similar 
effects follow as objects are more or less distant, receding 
from the sight and approaching the horizon ; they not only 
lose off their magnitude, but the discrimination of their com- 
ponent parts is rendered more difficult ; they necessarily be- 
come proportionably blurred, confused, and indistinguishable, 
as well in their forms as hues of colour, and the more so as 
the interposing medium of air happens to be dense and hazy. 
This difference in the degrees of distinctness is very ob- 
servable in the evening and morning appearance of the same 
objects. The exhalations and mists upon which the sun's 
catching rays diffuse such a glory in the evening, give an 
additional indistinctness, as they are spread like a veil, be- 




[lect. y. 

tween the eye and the remote objeets. Whereas, in the 
morning, after the sleeping vapours have been dispersed or 
Carried up, tlie parts, the hues, the determinate forms of re- 
mote objeets become much more distinguishable, and, if I 
might so express myself, the beauty, freshness, and sharpness 
of the impression is less effaced by the distance. 

Without entering too minutely into the consideration of 
the lights and shadows of particular objects, which in great 
part falls within the province of perspective, yet it may be 
observed in general, that not only the light and shadows of 
the several objects considered separately, but the character 
of their general effect, depends greatly upon the quality of 
the light, and the adventitious circumstances which accom- 
pany its communication. In a general light, when the sun 
is so concealed by clouds as to give no particular eclat to that 
part of the hemisphere, objects are illuminated vertically, 
and but feebly ; consequently their shadows are weak, con- 
tracted, and without any lateral projection: their greater or 
lesser degree of force depends upon the comparative strength 
or weakness of their peculiar hues of colour, and their local 
situation, respecting the quantity of medium, or air, in which 
they are immersed, by their greater or lesser degree of re- 

When this general light is brought through any aperture, 
as a gateway, window, or the like, it then becomes a parti- 
cular light, and affords all the advantages of lateral, pro- 
jected shadows, and reflexes. The same happens in the open 
air, when the sun, though hidden, communicates a great 
degree of lustre (as it generally does) to the sky and clouds 
in that quarter: objects are often illuminated from that par- 
ticular light, and the subordinate general light, communicated 
to the opposite side of the objects from the other less illu- 
minated parts of the air, serves but as a shadow for the par- 
ticular, predominating light : it follows, then, that the shadows 
exposed to the open air, though (to use the phrase) projected 
from a stronger light, are less forcible, less sharp and decided, 
than the shadows of the weaker light, when in a confined 
situation which excludes the interference of the surrounding 

The principal or strongest light on convex bodies will be 
o{ greater or lesser extent according to the extent of the 

LECT. V.] 



convexity, and to the magnitude of the luminary. The light 
from a torch will be more contracted than that from a win- 
dow, and the progression of this light on those surfaces is 
by an insensible gradation from the advanced part where it 
first catches and shines to the inclining half light, to the 
half shadow, and to the retired parts or shade, where it is 
lost. In angular bodies the interruption from the light to 
the shadow will be sudden and precipitate, as the angles 
which occasion it. The reflexes, which soften, and some- 
times enliven the extremity of the shades, are no part of 
this direct light, but are either communications from the 
surrounding air, or from the neighbouring bodies, which are 
directly illuminated, and they are stronger or weaker ac- 
cording to the proximity of those bodies, and the degree of" 
light they possess. 

As it is by this opposition or contrast between the dif- 
ferent degrees of light, or the different hues of colour, that 
all natural objects become visible, and as it is by the oppo- 
sition of shade to light (occasioned by the interruption of 
surface within the boundary of objects) that our sight i& 
enabled to distinguish solid bodies from mere plain super- 
ficies ; as this is the invariable constitution of things, it is 
difficult to account how the ancient Egyptians, the Chinese, and 
the other oriental nations, could have been for so many ages 
looking at nature, without having the ability to distinguish 
the component parts of the great spectacle before them, and 
that they should overlook those gradations of light, or ri- 
lievo of light and shade, by which objects are perceived, and 
their nature and distance ascertained. In a former discourse, 
it has been intimated that the pictures of those people were 
no more than a mere writing, where the slightest intimation 
of form was (as it is with us) sufficient for the purpose in- 
tended. This account of the matter affords the most favour- 
able salvo for their reputation j for otherwise, if we should 
suppose that, with the true spirit of artists, the imitation of 
nature had been in the least attended to, we must then have 
expected, that in such an immense tract of time, nations so 
cried up for their great sagacity and superior penetration, 
would have been able to arrive at the ordinary knowledge 
of the mere light and shade of objects, as it is found in the 

K 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

works of Albert Durer, Holbein, and the old Italian painters 
before Da Vinci. Some time since, in a conversation on 
this subject with one of those indiscriminate admirers of an- 
tiquity (who had more knowledge of books than of nature 
an.i art) in the hurry of his zeal, he was almost inclined to 
persist, that in those oriental nations, the natural objects had 
no shadow at all, or that if there was any, it could not be 
discernible on the brown complexions of the inhabitants. 
But not to pursue such absurdities further than they are 
worth, let us return our attention to the admirable principles 
and conduct adopted by Giorgione, Titian, Correggio, Ru- 
bens, and the other great successors of Da Yinci, of whom 
it may be said, without a figure, that they were not only skilled 
in all the happy artifices of the light and shade, which give 
rilievo to objects, but that they went much further, and, as- 
sisted by a ray of intellectual sentiment, they defeated nature 
in her own way, with the materials they borrowed from herself. 

With respect to the conduct necessary to be pursued in 
obtaining this advantageous distribution of the lights and 
darks in a picture, there is little now can be said upon it, as 
our neighbours on the continent have long since developed 
the principles of practice adopted by the great chiaroscurists. 
It has been, with good discernment, observed, that the con- 
stant maxim of those great artists was to dispose all their 
light and dark objects after such a manner as would best 
contribute to their being seen with the greatest possible ad- 
vantage and ease. That to this end they arranged them in 
groups, and masses of light, half-light, darks, and half-darks, 
and reflexes. Of these lights and darks one was principal, 
the rest subordinate, and all generally co-operated to pro- 
duce a totality and entireness in the work. The principal 
light was generally so disposed, as to give the greatest lustre 
to that part where the action and personages were of the 
greatest consequence, and where, accordingly, it was most 
proper to arrest the attention of the spectator. How far this 
light should extend, depended upon the previous arrangement 
of the objects, and the discreet and sentimental accommoda- 
tion of it to the nature of the subject ; but it is observable, 
that by extending it too far, its comparative value is propor- 
tionably lessened. 

Although this principal light should, as it were, occupy 

LECT. V.] 



only its own sphere, and not be repeated, yet it is not to be 
without its satellites or dependents. Revifications and echoes 
of it, subordinate in magnitude or force, or both, should not- 
withstanding, by an artful concatenation, be distributed to 
the circumstances of secondary importance in the other 
parts. These echoes prevent the too great silence which 
would otherwise prevail in the middle tint and shade, and 
still further, they remove that appearance of magic-lanthorn- 
like and too artificial contrivance which sometimes offends in 
the works of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and others. If the 
frame, boundary, or termination of a picture be (as it ought 
to be) considered only as a window-frame, or the limits of 
any other aperture through which we behold a certain portion 
of the creation, where any given action, business, or event 
may be supposed to happen, it must then appear evident that 
nothing can be more ill-judged than the practice of sacri- 
ficing all the extremities of a picture to a concentrated light 
■upon the middle group, except where the subject makes it 
proper, as in Correggio's Nativity, and other night scenes. 
By this absurd conduct, the picture, as it were, becomes less 
than the canvas, its connexion with the rest of the creation 
is destroyed, and all opportunity taken away of that artificial 
infinite where ingenuity may have so many resources of sug- 
gested beauty or sublimity ; where the imagination, when 
satisfied with the scene before it, might, by the concatenated 
secondary lights, be led on to the conception of something 
still further out of the picture : it is enough that these 
secondary lights be really subordinate, and then, instead of 
taking away from the principal light, they add greatly to its 
value. As these first and secondary lights must regulate the 
general effect, and give law, as it were, to the masses of 
middle and obscure tints, too much care cannot be taken to 
preserve them large, flowing, undisturbed by any trifling 
interruptions, and of variegated, beautiful shapes. 

The middle tint, or intermediate passage between the two 
masses of light and dark, is of the utmost importance in pro- 
ducing a good general effect. It is principally owing to the 
judicious and happy management of the middle tint that 
those fierce opposite extremes of light and dark are brought 
to co-operate and harmonise : being subordinate in beauty to 

N 4 


'bapjiy's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

the one, and in vigour and purity to the other, it makes their 
communication easy and agreeable, and serves as a foil to 
both, by giving each its comparative value. Parts of this 
mass of middle tint may be made to serve as an extension of 
the light in some places, and of the shade in others, just as 
you choose to oppose it to the parts of other masses, still 
lighter or darker ; so that by its beautiful and variegated 
modes of penetrating into the light on the one hand, and the 
dark on the other, it becomes the great ligature and common 
bond of union to both ; for provided that the nature and cha- 
racter of the middle tint be unequivocally defined and dis- 
tinguished from things really light and dark in themselves, it 
is (from the oblique position of objects, intervention of clouds, 
and so forth) equally susceptible of all advantageous, fleet- 
ing, accidental beauties, with the secondary lights. It is not 
necessary that the middle tint should always intervene be- 
tween every light and dark ; on the contrary, the eclat, 
spirit, and propriety of certain parts absolutely require their 
being detached boldly from the light by the sole and imme- 
diate opposition of vigorous shadows, or other dark tints. 

Extensive darks contribute greatly to the beautiful as well 
as to the grand and majestical result of the whole together : 
they equally serve to give a richness and grace to the broken 
hues of the middle tint, and eclat, beauty, and vigorous ani- 
mation to the masses of light, whilst they also afford a repose 
no less grateful and necessary to prevent the fatigue and over- 
exertion of the sight on the illuminated parts. To this end 
all the obscure or dark parts, whether shade or otherwise, 
should (as much as is possible, without breaking in upon 
higher considerations) be arranged after such a manner as 
to form but one general mass, and its greatest force be col- 
lected into some one part, where it might dominate with 
most advantage, or with least disadvantage, and become a 
principal on which all the others are in a graduated and har- 
monious dependence. With respect to this mass of dark, it 
need hardly be observed, that even w T here most vigorous, it 
is not a mere blot which obliterates wherever it is extended. 
The occasions are very few indeed where either the form or 
the proper colour of objects can be thus totally lost ; objects, 
even dark in themselves, and in the most advanced and, con- 
sequently, the strongest shade, are, notwithstanding, only 

LECT. V.] 



deprived of the direct light ; they are, therefore, more or less 
illuminated by the surrounding air, and by the reverberations 
of light from the other bodies in their vicinity. The conca- 
tenated portions of this mass of dark are, like those of the 
light, equally susceptible of all the elegant variations of size 
and figure. The interposition of drapery, its accidental cast 
of folds, and many other things in their nature purely 
optional, may be ingeniously recurred to on those occasions, 
when they do not interfere with propriety, or other import- 
ant considerations. By these happy artifices the darks may 
be occasionally contracted, extended, and made to assume 
any desired form, and reflexes obtained wherever they may 
be attended with utility. 

With respect to the proportionate magnitude of these 
masses — of light, middle tint, and dark, as relative to each 
other, it cannot precisely be determined. The nature of the 
subject, whether gay, majestic, or melancholy, affords the 
best rule to proceed by in each particular case. But an in- 
genious French writer has many years since observed, that, 
for the most part, the practice of those great painters who 
best understood the fine effects of chiaroscuro was to make 
the mass of middle tint larger than that of the light, and the 
mass of dark still larger than the masses of light and middle 
tints united together. 

Although these recipes for the mechanical distribution of 
the lights and darks have been very sagaciously deduced 
from the practice of the excellent chiaroscurists, and cannot 
fail of being attended with benefit, yet the student should 
always recollect that a beauty impertinently placed, and ob- 
tained at the expense of a perfection of a superior order, will 
justly be considered as a great deformity, and that, conse- 
quently, the measure of these subordinate considerations 
must be dictated by matters of higher importance. The ex- 
pressions of the subject must not appear to be created for the 
chiaroscuro, but the direct contrary. The chiaroscuro and the 
other attentions of the composition should be calculated to 
give the expression and sentiment of the subject all possible 
force and value. Every thing admissible in the chiaroscuro 
should fairly follow from that natural order in which the 
groups and other objects have been necessarily arranged for 
the better expression of the subject. This firmly fixed as the 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

invariable law, it may then be observed that in the infinitely 
various configurations of the sky and clouds, which may with 
equal possibility be connected with the subject, much assist- 
ance may be derived by obtaining such accidental lights or 
shades as, not interfering with propriety, their admission, 
extent, or local situation may be considered as a matter 
purely optional ; and, still further, although in the very ar- 
rangement of the figures and groups, the expression of the 
subject, with its becoming dignity, fitness, and propriety, be 
the prime object ; yet, as was observed in our last discourse, 
without detracting from this, some attention must be also 
paid in the collocation of these figures and groups, that they 
may either by their direct or perspective situation produce 
an agreeable variegated unity in their lights and forms : so 
it is but extending the same consideration to its natural 
length, to the composition of lights and darks, and contriving 
it that such certain portions of the surfaces of these forms 
may have such aspects with regard to the luminary as will 
best admit their being a proper substratum for those large, 
spreading masses of light, half-light, and dark upon which 
the beautiful, vigorous, and expressive effect of the work 
does so much depend. Indeed, the principal and the subor- 
dinate considerations of a picture ought and might very well 
be carried on altogether ; and it is only from inability or 
laziness that they can interfere to the prejudice of each 

The chiaroscuro may be also greatly assisted by the judi- 
cious management of the drapery ; for although the modes 
of dress employed in the composition must be in strict con- 
formity with the usages and characters of the people repre- 
sented, and, although the disposition and casts of folds in the 
several draperies must be governed by the action, attitude, 
or way in which the figures are employed, and must further 
be so disposed as not to take from the spirit and energy of 
the action and value of the form by a too great concealment 
of the junctures and other parts of importance ; yet, in the 
infinitely various casts and modes of distinction of the folds 
of these draperies, which may be equally compatible with the 
same action, an ingenious artist has it always in his power to 
extend or contract his lights or darks, according to the occa- 
sions of his general effect, without the least infraction of 

LECT. Y.] 



propriety. Every beauty of which all the kinds of drapery- 
are susceptible, may be rendered highly available in com- 
pleting and removing any disagreeable appearances which 
might otherwise follow from the more absolute parts of the 
composition and chiaroscuro. The several textures of coarse 
and fine linen, of cotton, silk, woollen cloth, afford an exten- 
sive variety in the cast and manner of their several foldings, 
some more smart and frequently interrupted, others more 
flowing, majestic, and composed of larger parts. Spirit and 
force may be obtained by the precipitate opposition of the 
lights and darks in the close and deep folds ; suavity, grace, 
and accord, by those more open and extended ; and opportu- 
nities are every where afforded of breaking all unavoidably 
parallel, rectangular, and other too definite and regular ap- 
pearances, by the beautiful and variegated angles that are 
formed between the origin and the more dispersed parts of 
these folds. Almost all compositions afford these accessional 
advantages, as, however differently fashioned, the dresses of 
the people of all ages have been more or less formed out of 
the same materials. The further use that may be made of 
the uniformity and variety of the colours of these draperies 
will be taken notice of in our next discourse ; but as every 
colour, whether simple or compound, has its proper chiaro- 
scuro, consisting of all the possible degrees of depth or 
strength of hue, from the slightest or weakest tincture down- 
wards, and as the selection of any of these degrees, and the 
situation which it may occupy, is often optional, all these 
considerations, taken together, afford an infinity of resource 
for adjusting the composition and chiaroscuro, for con- 
tinuing assimilated forms, or for interrupting, breaking, and 
variegating them to any desired extent ; and this is equally 
pursuable in the lights and darks, in the middle tint, and in 
the reflexes. 

Thus with attention, and amorous assiduity, it is almost 
always in the power of an artist to superinduce an har- 
monious and sentimentally expressive chiaroscuro upon that 
ordinary distribution of light and shade which natural 
bodies necessarily exhibit. 

I have, in a former discourse, had occasion to take notice, 
that architecture (where it was not a mechanical art depen- 
dent on mere convenience, and upon the rule and plummet) 


barry's lectures. 

|[lect. v. 

was an emanation of the arts of design, and consequently in 
every thing that regarded its more liberal concerns, its beau- 
tiful or majestical effects, as a whole and parts, it was the 
pure offspring of drawing or modelling, and absolutely and 
solely depended upon the composition of forms, and the com- 
position of chiaroscuro and rilievo, which those forms pro- 
duced. The same principles of uniformity and variety, or 
of variegated unity, which must be previously pursued in so 
arranging and constructing the figures and general forms of 
a picture, that they may serve as a proper substratum for 
that chiaroscuro which brings them to the sight as an har- 
monious totality — these same principles, and these only, are 
the constituents of all similar agreeable effects in architec- 
ture, since the architect must have these effects present to 
his mind, that they may follow as consequences, from the 
arrangement of forms which enter into the composition of his 
buildings. These laws of variegated unity being grounded 
upon the just consideration of the human faculties, and 
accommodated (as was before observed) to our abilities and 
inabilities of perception, they are, therefore, equally applica- 
ble to every whole and its parts, and are great agents of 
satisfaction in all other arts, as well as in those which de- 
pend upon vision : nay, they are applicable to nature herself, 
which may be made a work of art, with no small accumula- 
tion of advantage ; as it is evident in gardening, the laying 
out of grounds, and other matters : and every man con- 
versant with the higher poetry, must have often observed 
the ingenious subordinations, the contrasts, and all the artful 
necessary expedients that have been employed to give force 
and eclat to the principal action, or a character and unity to the 
whole. But not to stray from our own immediate concerns. 
When the examples of beautiful and majestical arrangments 
of relative magnitudes and forms in architecture were once 
executed, they might be easily copied and multiplied by the 
rule and compass of mere mechanics ; but the history of 
architecture and architects, both in Greece and Italy, affords 
one continued chain of proof, that all the great inventors, 
restorers, and improvers of architecture were (as might 
naturally have been expected) painters or sculptors. This, 
by-the-bye, as it neither suits our time or occasion to go 

&ECT. V.] 



into any historical details.* But what is immediately for 
our purpose, and was indeed my inducement for the men- 
tioning architecture in this place, is the occasion it affords 
for the illustration of the utility and importance of chiaro- 
scuro, and the absolute necessity of its being a leading con- 
sideration in the fabrication of all objects presented to the 
sight. Attending only to the actual fact, without entering 
into the reasons or the necessities which might have occa- 
sioned it, we must confess, that many of our churches and 
public buildings of the last age have the same bad appear- 
ance as Chinese pictures, where there is no light and shade 
to give brilliancy, repose, and majesty of effect : mere walls 
inlaid with pilasters or half columns, unconnected perfora- 
tions for windows and doors, and nothing to relieve the 
sight from a dull disgusting monotony of light, without 
shade. This hateful insipid uniformity cannot be removed 
by diversifying forms on the same surface, like mere out- 
lines on paper. They want the force of chiaroscuro to give 
them that rilievo which the sight necessarily demands, and 
without which they are not forms, but sketches and indica- 
tions of form. In the sound examples of art, when pilas- 
ters or half columns have been employed, and consequently 
the entablature deprived of its accustomed projecture, they 
were either accompanied with arched ways, which produced 
the necessary quantity of shadow, as in the Theatre of 
Marcellus, the Colosseum, and many others, or their con- 
tinuity was interrupted by other more retired parts or ob- 
jects, to which they serve as illuminated portions or masses. 
Where prominent parts could not be obtained for the pro- 
jection of adequate shade, voids have been introduced, as 
they answer the same end, but in a less degree : they serve 

* The first architect mentioned by Vasari is Buono, a sculptor and 
architect of the 12th century ; the Campanile at Pisa was commenced by 
one Guglielmo, and Bonanno a sculptor ; the next architect mentioned 
by Vasari is Marchionne, a sculptor of Arezzo ; the next are, Jacopo a 
German, Lapo, and his pupil, the celebrated Arnolfo di Lapo, who com- 
menced the cathedral of Florence. These were followed by Fuccio, 
Niccola and Giovanni Pisano, Lino of Siena, Margaritone of Arezzo, and 
Giotto, all sculptors, and the two last painters also, as well as architects. 
Agostino and Agnolo of Siena, Andrea Pisano, Orcagna, Brunelleschi, 
Michelozzi, and Juliano da Maiano, were likewise all celebrated sculp- 
tors, as well as architects W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

as a shade when the object is in shadow. In all cases where 
this uniformity of surface and equally diffused light is sup- 
portable, shadow, or what is equivalent to it, will be some- 
where found to have occasioned it, either by gloomy trees or 
other dark objects connected with the view. Canaletto 
would make good pictures of our worst churches, by employ- 
ing his skill in the relative picturesque accompaniments. 

Whatever impressions of boldness and masculine vigour, 
whatever soft and feminine gracefulness, and whatever easy, 
splendid luxuriance, men of taste and sentiment have dis- 
covered in the three Grecian orders, these peculiar charac- 
teristics are in nothing more discoverable than in their 
several chiaroscuros. If any man doubt this, let him com- 
pare a model or a shaded drawing of the Temple of Minerva*, 
or of the Portico of the Pantheon, with the mere geometrical 
or perspective outline. These geometrical and proportionate 
measures and mere lines, are to the sight little better than 
nonentities, until they receive being and realisation from 
rilievo and the chiaroscuro which follows it. Let us even 
suppose that the Corinthian columns on the sides of St. 
Martin's church had been entire, yet so as to be in contact 
with the wall, how frittered and meagre would this lateral 
view appear in comparison of the noble portico in front, 
sustained as it is by the majestic shade flung into its inter- 
columniations by the projection of its entablature. The 
Temple at Nismes, and that of Fortuna Virilis, being nearly 
the same with this of St. Martin's, the same objection will 
lie equally to all. However, it may be worth observing, 
that if this difference of distribution in the front and sides 
of the same buildings arose from a desire of saving expense, 
the convenience of windows afforded by this discontinuance 
of lateral projecting columns is, at least, to us a valuable 
compensation for any thing tliat may have been lost as to 
effect. As to the ancients, who wanted nothing of this con- 
venience, it is a departure from the spirit and character of 
their work, for which no other than an economical reason 
can be given, as they appear not to have sought for, but 
rather to have excluded all other light but that of fire. 
Their religious rites and ceremonies performed by torch- 
light, in a dark quadrangular building, without any other 
• The Parthenon at Athens. — W f 

LECT. V.] 



aperture but the door, and thickly beset all around with, as it 
were, a dark grove of columns, the very forms of those 
columns and their capitals, particularly some of the most 
ancient in Egypt — all these things (however improved by 
successive and ingenious refinements) do indeed strongly 
indicate a commemoration and representation of usages 
which could only have arisen amongst the Cimmerians*, or 
such-like people. 

To descend even to the Gothic churches, many of them 
are so disposed (whether with intention, or, perhaps, from an 
unconscious feeling of the beauties and general forms of the 
ancient colonnades, which they imitated in their own bar- 
barous way ; or rather, these general forms were the last 
things forgotten, and had survived all the smaller particular 
details which were lost in the gradual corruption of archi- 
tecture), these Gothic churches are so disposed, I say, tiiat 
their cloisters, aisles, and the different partitions of their 
front and lateral views, almost always present the eye with 
large masses of shade, which give the necessary support 
and value to the parts illuminated, and produce such a ri- 
lievo and effect in the totality, as makes a considerable im- 
pression of awe and grandeur on the mind, in despite of its 
very barbarous and defective particulars. 

Thus it is apparent that variegated unity, and its conse- 
quent rilievo of a proportionate light and shade, is the 
operating cause of the beautiful arrangements in architec- 
ture, as well as in painting and sculpture. There is, how- 
ever, this remarkable difference in those arts: in architecture, 
the proportionate arrangement, and its rilievo of light and 
shade is, I had almost said, the whole of the art ; at least it 

* The Cimmerii (Cimbri Celts?) were fabulously said to dwell in 
caves, from which the light of day was excluded ; a figure for the pecu- 
liarities of cold mountainous regions, and the long dark nights of the 
north. The Cimmerii had neither morning nor evening li^ht, a circum- 
stance not so much owing to the absence of the sun as the partial light of 
mountain valleys, and the constant mists of the woody and marshy lands 
of the north ; they must have had light enough in the summer, if by the 
Cimmerii is merely meant those invaders of the south who dwelt in the 
northernmost parts of Europe and Asia. They are mentioned by Homer 
(Od. xi. 14.), and other great poets of antiquity. The peculiarities ©f 
the Cimmerian climate, says Plutarch (Marius, c. 11.), gave Homer his 
idea of the Region of Shades (NeVcwa). — W. 

192 b-arky's lectures. [lect. v. 

is of much more essential consequence to that art than it 
is even to painting and sculpture, and for this plain reason, 
that the particular inanimate square, or curve ingredients of 
the architectonic composition, have but little value or in- 
terest in themselves when compared with the various in- 
trinsic beauties of animate and vegetative life, which enter 
into the composition of the painter or sculptor. The suc- 
cessful management of this variegated unity and rilievo of 
light and shade can only be expected from the skilful de- 
signer. It is he alone who, from the sure and expansive 
principles of composition and chiaroscuro, can pursue 
beauty and sublimity in a thousand different ways ; whilst 
without these essential requisites of design men are but 
mere builders, arid must unavoidably copy, or plunder from 
the works of those who are gone before them ; and in either 
case the absurdities that may result from the difference of 
climate, local situation, and from ill-according particulars, 
however beautiful in their own original proper arrangement, 
are too obvious to be mentioned. These absurdities happen 
frequently, when gentlemen, from a little reading in Palladio 
or Serlio, will venture to become their own architects, or to 
interfere and obtrude their notions on the artists they employ. 

In pursuing this important part of the distribution and 
effects of light and shade, it gives me no small pleasure to 
find that I have been led to take notice of a particular which 
reflects great honour on our own age, as compared with the 
last. Some of the most distinguished architects, both here 
and on the continent, are in the number of our ablest de- 
signers. Of this truth our own recollection will furnish 
such an instance in those very admirable drawings of our 
worthy professor of architecture*, which are annually ex- 
hibited round this chair, as makes it altogether unnecessary 
for me to offer further proofs of the sound enlarged prin- 
ciples of design and harmonious arrangement of effects which 
have been so happily pursued by the architects of the pre- 
sent century. 

With respect to the chiaroscuro of sculpture, it is to be 
considered in two different ways, — as the sculpture is a prin- 
cipal, or as it is only an agent. Where it is a principal, as 
in groups and figures in the round, the masses of light and 
* Thomas Sandby W. 

LECT. V.] 



shade, or, in other words, the agreeable or majestic effect of 
the work in all its possible views, cannot be too much at- 
tended to. The taste of lines and harmonious flow of the 
parts or several members of the work (whether a group or a 
single figure), their variety and their combined unity, are 
the efficient causes of that light and shade which give ease 
and satisfaction to the eye of the spectator, and engage him, 
as it were, to enter into the contemplation of those still 
more essential beauties of a higher order, which result from 
the sublime conception of the form and character, and the 
graceful or pathetical expression of the subject. 

As to the oppositions of chiaroscuro that are effected by 
differently coloured marbles, it would take up too much of 
our time to offer reasons why it ought to be rejected alto- 
gether. To speak my own feelings of this matter, I never 
see it with pleasure ; the less the opposition in the colour of 
the materials, the less offended is my sight. Also the mix- 
ture of bronze with marble in any imitation of natural ob- 
jects, is to me always disgusting. There are, no doubt, great 
authorities for the using bronze as the material of statues, 
and certainly it may, from the weight and sensibleness of its 
colour, do extremely well, perhaps better than any thing else 
in insulated works which have the air for a back ground, 
and are to be seen at a distance, as is the case of Falconet's 
monument of Peter the Great*, that of Marcus Aurelius j*, 
and many others ; but in most other cases, in those of en- 
closed situations, to repeat my own feelings once more, I 
would wish to have the bronze gilt. The light and shade 
of a gilt figure is no doubt less agreeable, I was going to 
say less natural, than that of a figure in marble, but it is, 

* At St. Petersburg : it is equestrian and colossal, and is placed on an 
immense piece of rock, brought to the spot from a great distance. — W. 

f This is the only ancient bronze equestrian statue preserved to us ; 
it stands before the Capitol at Rome ; but stood formerly before the 
Lateran palace, where it was placed by Clement III., in the year 1187 : 
it stood originally in the forum, before the arch of Severus. This statue 
still retains traces of the gilding with which it was originally covered. 
Its preservation is attributed to its being supposed, during the middle 
ages, to have been the statue of Constantine : it went formerly by the 
name of the Cavallo di Constantino. Michelangelo set it up in its pre- 
sent position, in 1538. (Platner, Beschireibung der Stadt. Rom. iii. i. 
101.) — W\ 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

notwithstanding, much more eligible in confined situations 
than that of bronze. 

Sculpture may, in all sepulchral and other such monu- 
ments, be considered as a principal or sole object, carrying 
with it its own laws ; and, from the junction of alto and 
basso-rilievo, affords a noble opportunity for those artist- 
like attentions to the fine effects of composition and chiaro- 
scuro, of which it is susceptible in a high degree, and of 
which some great moderns have given such illustrious speci- 
mens, as incontrovertibly demonstrate the advantage of the 
undertaking, whether there had been any ancient examples 
for it or not. As works of this nature must be regulated by 
the consideration of the distance at which they are seen, and 
their aspects respecting the spectator, and also respecting the 
light ; whether they receive it perpendicularly, laterally, or 
in front ; their situation ought always to be previously de- 
termined, in order to make these essential circumstances 
coincide with the just and happy expression of the subject; 
which, I shall again repeat, ought, in all works whatever, to 
appear the chief and governing principle, from whence the 
mode of composition and chiaroscuro issued as from their 

I could wish not only for your sake, and that of the public 
at large, but also on my own account, that our collection of 
plaster casts in the Academy was more ample. In the 
number of excellent things that must be attended to during 
one's residence abroad, the impressions of many of them 
will unavoidably not be so fresh on the memory after some 
years as to enable a man to speak of them with confidence ; 
more particularly on such an occasion as the present — but 
from what I recollect of the happy effects produced by the 
skilful arrangements of alto and basso-rilievo, and the per- 
spective imitations of the aerial as well as lineal de-gradua- 
tions of the object in Algardi's famous work at St. Peter's*, 
in that of Puget at Paris f, and some others ; this mode of 
process is capable of producing the sublimest and most ex- 

* The alto-rilievo of " La Fuga d'Attila," or the flight of Attila, 
which is placed over one of the altars in St. Peter's at Rome. It is the 
largest alto-rilievo in the world ; the St. Leo and the Attila are about 
ten feet high. — W. 

-f The bassc-rilievo of Alexander and Diogenes, now at Versailles. — W. 

LECT. V.] 



tensive effects in sculpture. What should hinder that it 
might not even be associated with groups in the round? 
For my own part I cannot help being strongly of opinion, 
that such a subject as the Niobe would come upon the eye 
of the spectator with a much more collected force, if treated 
by a great artist in this way, than in the scattered manner 
in which this composition appeared in the Villa Medici. It 
may be thought that more might be lost than gained by this 
procedure, and that it would be sacrificing the great advan- 
tage afforded by the different views of sculptured figures in 
the round. But let it be considered, that such a composi- 
tion as I speak of, formed of detached figures, and of those 
in alt and in bas-relief, insensibly vanishing almost into the 
intaglio of a proper and significant back -ground ; such a 
composition, besides excluding all foreign impertinent matter, 
that must necessarily detract from the impression of the 
subject upon the mind, would, on the contrary, afford a fit 
opportunity of indicating all such historical and other oppo- 
site becoming circumstances of the scene, as might urge on 
and give this impression of the subject all its completion : 
and from the very nature of vision with respect to near or 
more remote objects, such a composition as this would not 
be so strictly confined to any individual perspective point as 
to exclude a great variety of views of the advanced figures*; 
it would admit of almost (nay, to the full) as many as the 
composition of the Niobe does at present ; for it was evi- 
dent, from the state of the work, that it was not intended to 
be viewed on all sides indifferently, perhaps it was even 
proper it should not; for however differently it might be 
with Puget's famous Milo, Le Pautre's JEneas and Anchises, 
and Coustou's Alexander and Bucephalus, which very pro- 
perly admit of being seen on all sides ; yet there can be no 
doubt, or at least I have none, but that the sculptor of the 
Niobe reasoned rightly as far as he went, and that the 

* The great objection to this species of work is, that, except in a par- 
ticular light, the parts in a/fo-relicf cast shadows upon those in lower 
relief, which are yet designed to be too remote to be really influenced by 
any such shadows in nature : nothing can compensate for this defect ; the 
shadows are fatal to the effect of the work. The linear perspective, also, 
where there can be no aerial perspective, is very offensive. This style 
of relief is now deprecated by the best judges. — W. 

o 2 

1 9(3 barry's lectures. [lect. v. 

adequate expression of such extensive subjects as necessarily 
comprehend a concatenation of many circumstances, requires 
that the figures be more or less presented to the eye of the 
spectator under certain aspects, the most noble and the most 
proper ; and, upon inspection, it will appear that the Laocoon, 
and even the Apollo Belvedere, and many other single figures, 
were intended for niches, or at least were not intended to be 
so insulated as to be seen all round. 

I am almost tempted to mention Bernini's Four Doctors of 
the Church, and the glory surrounding St. Peter's Chair, as 
an admirable specimen of this mixed composition of the 
different kinds of rilievo, and certainly it is a most animated, 
noble performance; no doubt, it must be admitted that his 
style of design is sometimes overdone, too exquisite ; and 
his judgment may be said not to keep pace with his extreme 
sensibility, and the noble force of his disposition. However, 
this charge will hold good but in few instances, and his 
design, in general, is full of intelligence, the very reverse of 
unformed Dutch vulgarity; and his imagination, which was 
always that of a great man, cannot be too much esteemed. 

About fifty years ago there happened at Rome one of 
the noblest occasions for a stupendous composition of this 
mixed rilievo in the Fontana di Trevi. But from powerful 
favour, or some other such wretched consideration, the pope 
unfortunately threw the work away upon a mere architect, 
and Filippo Yalle, with other sculptors, being but under- 
strappers in the business, were ill-fated instruments in a 
hand that knew not how to employ them to any purpose of 
advantage : the work eventually turned out to be a disgrace 
to the pope, to those who executed it, and, above all, to the 
city in which it was erected, and affords a striking lesson to 
succeeding generations, of the folly of taking design, and the 
composition of forms and chiaroscuro, out of the hands of 
those who can manage them, and committing them to men 
whose views extend no farther than the square and compass. 
From such perverse folly, what can be expected but monu- 
ments of expensive and lost labour, without amenity of 
design, effect, or any other valuable leading quality to re- 
commend them? Had the whole of this great machine of 
the Fontana di Trevi been committed to any one of those 
sculptors, or had any historical painter, or such a man as 

LECT. V.] 



Bernini, the designing of it, what might not have been done 
with such an opportunity of one great concentrated suite of 
views ! I say concentrated, because, as this could not be an 
insulated composition, viewed on the four sides, like the so 
justly celebrated fountain in the Piazza Navona, the whole 
impression of the subject here would be entire, would be 
one, and not many, as a significant and co-operating back- 
ground would happily concentrate all the views in front. 

But to return, and to finish what I had to say of the de- 
sirable increase of our little collection of plaster casts in the 
Academy ; it is, on many accounts, a thing most ardently to 
be wished ; for as almost all our great houses are filled with 
old foreign pictures, of one kind or other, but, at best, of little 
importance to the national reputation, and as our churches, 
the natural receptacle for all interesting, serious, and manly 
art, can afford no prospect for the exercise of national ability, 
whilst, to the disgrace of the age, the mistaken delicacy of 
ignorance, and abused, superannuated, fanatical prejudices, 
are unfortunately allowed to stand so much in the way; 
whilst matters are likely to remain after this fashion, it 
would be at least some amusement, and prevent the ennui of 
inactivity, to have it in our power to lounge over what the 
other artists had done, who were more fortunately circum- 
stanced ; to compare the casts of the Curtius at the Borghese, 
of some bas-reliefs at the Villa Medici, and other ancient 
works of this kind, with some of the best works of the mo- 
derns ; to trace the modern bas-relief from its first, and very 
respectable attempt at picturesque effects, in Ghiberti's Gates 
of the Baptisterium*, which we have, to the most famous of 
those of later date, which w r e have not. In the ancient bas- 
reliefs there certainly is not much attention j^aid to any de- 

* Of San Giovanni at Florence. These are the gates which Michel- 
angelo said were fit to be the gates of paradise. The modelling, how- 
ever, of the figures of these gates can scarcely be duly appreciated, owing 
to their blackness; this objection would be obviated in a plaster cast. 
The two principal or central gates were finished in 1424 ; each is di- 
vided into five compartments, in which the subjects (from the Old Testa- 
ment) are treated as pictures, that is, in perspective, and in various 
degrees of relief. They are engraved in Lasinio's Le ire porie del Bat- 
tisterio di Firenze. Flor. 1823; in a larger size by Feodor for the 
sculptor, H. Keller, Rome, 1798 ; and in the works of Cicognara, d'Agin- 
court, and others. — W. 

o 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

graduation of objects and their effects. Their composition 
seldom or never extends further than two plans ; and although 
the figures in the interior or second plan are of lower relief, 
and produce, consequently, and very properly, a less forcible 
effect of chiaroscuro, yet the lineal perspective does not here 
correspond with the aerial, for the figures upon both those 
plans are generally of the same size. It may be said, and 
even insisted upon, that the second plan seems intended for 
little else than to give that plenitude of objects which the 
mere arrangement of forms required, and, consequently, that 
no perspective de-graduation was attempted by the ancients : 
but this is not satisfactory ; there seems an error, and it is 
better to confess it ; for undoubtedly the comparative dimi- 
nution of force and rilievo naturally presupposes a compara- 
tive diminution of magnitude. These bas-reliefs have merit 
enough in other respects to preserve their rank in the art, 
and it is probable that most of them were placed in such 
situations, that they were more or less governed by other 
laws than those which arose out of themselves. 

When sculpture is only an agent, as it is in the frieze, and 
other parts of architecture ; its effects of chiaroscuro should 
become subordinate, and, like every other member, appear 
only as a co-operating part in the general effect of the whole 
building. This, I believe, will be found to be the true reason 
for what may be thought the imperfect, inartificial mode of 
execution, which it appears, by the fragments in the Academy, 
was adopted in the bas-reliefs of the frieze on the temple of 
Minerva at Athens. The figures which were intended to 
appear nearest the eye are inclining to the flat ; they have, 
comparatively, the least convexity, and come off from their 
ground in a bold, square, and detached way, with a rilievo 
similar to that of the Triglyphs and Pateras, ordinarily used 
in those situations. Thus the lights being larger, and less 
broken, the whole appearance of those advanced objects is 
comparatively more preserved and distinct than the others, 
and the effect proper to the occasion is perhaps better ob- 
tained than it could have been in any other way.* 

If these works were, from architectonic and optical consi- 

* Some excellent remarks on the effect of light on these and similar 
works will be found in the article on Basso Rilievo in the Fenny 
Ci/clopcedia f written by Mr. Eastlake. — W. 

jLECT. V.] 



derations, solely calculated to produce their effect in a certain 
given situation distant from the sight, it can be no wonder, 
nor is it any imputation of want of skill in Phidias, or his 
workmen, that they should appear very differently, and much 
wanting when brought near the eye, into a situation the re- 
verse of that for which they were intended. Had they been 
calculated for the panels of an arched way, almost on a level 
with the spectator, like those beautiful bas-reliefs in the Arch 
of Titus, there can be no doubt but that a style of execution 
directly the reverse ought necessarily to have been adopted, 
and would have been adopted; for the knowledge which 
influenced the conduct of the artist in the one mode does 
actually imply the cognisance of the other. 

This procedure, where the most advanced objects are kept 
comparatively flat, naturally produces a broad light on those 
advanced objects, with smart shadows or touches about the 
arms, eyes, nose, and other associated projecting and en- 
graved parts, which are relieved and well set off by the 
more interior figures, in consequence of their being more 
rounded, and thereby affording a greater quantity of middle 
■tint and scarcity of light. This, as was before observed, is, 
perhaps, the most skilful and best method which could have 
been adopted for producing an advantageous effect in objects 
so situated. Something of this kind is observable in the 
famous basso-rilievo, vulgarly called the Trimalchio*, of 
which there is an excellent one in Mr. Townley's collection. 

The figures and objects about them in the first plan are 
comparatively broad and flat, whilst those in the second and 
third plans are rounder and more relieved : indeed, they are 
too much relieved, projecting shades too forcible, and by tha 
means producing a false chiaroscuro, which militates with 
the general effect, and is in direct opposition to the perspec- 
tive diminution of magnitude, by which this ancient sculptor 
has properly enough intimated the distance at which those 
figures are seen, but which ought to have been accompanied 
with a decrease of force and rilievo proportionate to this 

* Trimalcion ; that is, from the supposition that it represented the feast 
of Trimalcion, in which Petronius satirised the debaucheries of Nero 
(Petr. Arb. c. 30. 59.). The subject of the bas-relief in question is the 
visit of Bacchus to Icarius. (See Townley Gallery, Soc. Dif. U. K. vol. 
ii. p. 141.). — W. 

o 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

decrease of magnitude. It is only by this inseparable cor- 
respondence in the force and magnitude of objects that we 
are habituated to judge of the comparative proximity or dis- 
tance of those objects, both in nature and art. It is observ- 
able, then, that the happiest and least faulty examples 
amongst the ancient basso-rilievos are either like this in 
the frieze of the Temple of Minerva, or those on the Arch 
of Titus — those in the Villa Medici, and many others, where 
little more is attempted than the representing figures on one 
plan. When they endeavoured to do any thing more, and 
to carry on the other parts of the scene, through many plans, 
into the distance, certain failures, from an ignorance of those 
laws of vision, called perspective, become more or less appa- 
rent, in proportion to the extent of what is attempted. There 
is no need of palliation here ; and as the ancient artists have 
always too much merit not to ensure our admiration, we 
shall, notwithstanding the blind zeal of many of their indis- 
criminate admirers., who will see nothing but perfection in 
what they have done, and notwithstanding the rashness and 
impropriety of looking for more than they have done, we 
shall, I say, proceed to observe, that this ignorance of per- 
spective is often but too visible, not only in their marble 
bas-reliefs, but on the reverses of their medals, and in their 
paintings discovered at Herculaneum and at Rome. AH 
these examples, taken together, form such a body of evidence, 
as would force us to conclude that the ancient painters, their 
sculptors in bas-relief, and medalists, were incapable of carry- 
ing these arts to any considerable degree of perfection in 
any scenes where perspective, many plans, and distances 

It is being very uncandid and trifling with us, to affirm, 
as many of our zealots do, that the ancients thought this 
perspective appearance of objects of too little consequence 
to bestow much attention on it ; and, as from themselves, they 
observe, further, in confirmation of this, that the effect of the 
principal objects would be disturbed by the clatter and ri- 
lievo of objects in the back-ground ; that the violent inflection 
of the vanishing lines of buildings would have a bad effect ; 
and that the alto-rilievo is a bad taste, and better avoided, 
since nothing can be more disgusting than the clumps of 
alto-rilievo on the Arch of Severus and on the Antonine 

LECT. V.] 



Column ; and, in fine, that perhaps perspective representa- 
tions were improper, and their admission ought to be pre- 
cluded in sculptured scenes of rilievo. This cavilling and 
chicanery, thus substituted for true and just reasoning, might, 
with a proper allowance for human frailty, be excusable in 
an affair of religion, or of national or deep personal interest. 
But in estimating the works of taste and art, executed by 
people whom we have not known, and who have been dead 
two thousand years since, this is surely altogether unworthy 
the good citizen of a community, where the same arts are 
still in practice.* 

Let it be, then honestly, allowed, that perspective is neces- 
sary for the completion of basso-rilievo, as well as of paint- 
ing. The ancients were too sagacious and too much in love 
with art not to see this, and endeavour after it ; and in what 
remains both of their basso-rilievos and paintings, the same 
instances which prove their ignorance and ill success in those 
perspective representations, afford also a manifest proof of 
their eagerness and solicitude to attain the ability of giving 
this last perfection to art. 

A conclusion thus resulting from such a body of facts, 
and spreading so widely in different arts, cannot be dis- 
turbed and controverted by conjectural inferences from pas- 

* It should be borne in mind that the paintings of Pompeii are the ordi- 
nary chamber decorations of an insignificant provincial town, and that they 
were executed at an age when, according to Roman writers themselves, 
the art was in a disgraceful state. If we do but compare the Pompeii 
remains with our own provincial, or even metropolitan chamber decora- 
tions, from the establishment of the arts down to the present day, we 
shall find the comparison greatly in favour of the ancients. There have 
been, however, many noble specimens of the art discovered at Pompeii 
and Herculaneum, both as regards facility of execution and composition. 
The great Mosaic Battle of Alexander, discovered in 1831, is, even as a 
composition, worthy of any age of art, and has much merit of execution, 
even as a Mosaic ; though, from its great superiority as a work of art, it 
is evidently the copy of some celebrated picture of some former period : 
it abounds in skilful foreshortenings, and is, on the whole, a noble battle- 
piece. In the mere mural decorations, also, of Pompeii there are many 
successful attempts at perspective. It is well known that the Greeks 
were acquainted with perspective, for perspective scenery (scenography) 
was introduced on the Greek stage as early as the time of iEschylus, 
though, perhaps, not generally until the time of Sophocles. (Compare 
Vitruvius, vii. prcef. ; Diogenes, ii. 125; Pliny, Hist. J\ r at. xxxv. 37. 
40 ; and Aristotle, Poetica, 4. ) — W 

202 barry's lectures. [lect. v. 

sages in ancient writers, which' intimate a knowledge of the 
true laws of optics and perspective. 

The curious passage in the fourth book of Lucretius* 
respecting the contraction of a long portico into the visual 
point, and the passage in the proem of Vitruvius, to his 
seventh book, respecting the writings on these subjects of 
vision, by Agatharcus, Democritus, and Anaxagoras*, as 
well as other passages in ancient authors, particularly two, 
which were some years since communicated to me by Mr. 
Nicolaides f, a learned Greek, are irreconcileable with those 

* The following is the important passage alluded to : — " When 
yEschylus was exhibiting tragedies at Athens, Agatharcus made a 
scene, and left a treatise upon it. By the assistance of this treatise, 
Democritus and Anaxagoras wrote upon the same subject, showing how 
the extension of rays from a fixed point of sight should be made to cor- 
respond to lines as they appear in nature, so that the images of build- 
ings in painted scenes might have the appearance of reality ; and although 
painted upon flat vertical surfaces, some parts should seem to recede, and 
others to come forward." — W. 

f Note communicated by Mr. Nicolaides. 

Heliodorus, the philosopher, made a division of optics, at the end of his 
first book of optics, printed at Paris in the year 1657 : into what is called 
optics peculiarly, catoptricks, and into a third part, which he calls Sceno- 
graphicon (the drawing of bodies). Of this he speaks thus : — 

" The scenographic part of optics examines how the drawings of edi- 
fices should be drawn. For, whereas, objects do not appear as they are 
in reality, the architects endeavour to make their works appear not in 
their true proportion, but in that in which they should appear. 

" The end of the architect is to make his work appear proportional in 
appearance, and to invent remedies, as well as he can, against the decep- 
tions of the sight, not caring for the true symmetry and proportion, but 
for that of the eye. 

" Thus, therefore, because a cylindrical column would appear broken 
in the middle by becoming narrow in respect to the sight, in this part he 
makes it broader. 

'? Likewise he draws a circle, not as a circle, but as a section of a 
rectangular cone : and the many, and very high pillars he draws in other 
proportions both in number and height." 

Such is the care of a maker of a colossus, to give an apparent symmetry 
of his work, that it may appear proportional to the sight, but not in 
reality. For the works placed on a great height do not appear as they 

The other division of optics is by Proclus, a Platonic philosopher, in 
his comments upon the first book of Euclid. 

" Optic is a daughter of geometry, for it makes use of lines of the sight 
and angles which are constituted of them. It is divided into what is 

LECT. V.] 



incontrovertible facts, respecting the state of art, which are 
so glaringly testified in the remains of ancient basso-rilievos 
and paintings. 

It is, indeed, much to be regretted that ancient artists 
were not better enabled to complete what they attempted 
often in their marble bas-reliefs, and more frequently on 
their medals ; instead of the inartificial, wretched scrawls 
which they have made of the representation of their temples 
and other buildings, what could they not have preserved for 
us, had they been furnished with the same skill and union of 
rilievo and intaglio perspectively employed, by which the 
moderns have been enabled ingeniously to convert the 
reverses of their medals and medallions into important 
archives, in which are recorded, and will be transmitted to 
posterity, all those beautiful specimens of modern architec- 
ture, and other arts, with which, since the fifteenth century, 
the reverses of the papal and other medals have been so 
elegantly, and so usefully adorned ? How much should we 
be delighted to have a view remaining of that miracle of art 
(which it must have been) Trajan's Forum ; or with those 
wonders of the interior or exterior views of the statue and 
sanctuary scene about it, at Elis, or at Ephesus ? What 
ecstasy to have such works executed with a skill of rilievo 
and intaglio, similar to that which is employed in the medal- 
lions of the interior and exterior views of St. Peter's at 
Rome, or of St. Paul's in London ! 

It is true that this admirable union of rilievo, intaglio, 
and skilful perspective arrangement, is often ill employed in 
our modern reverses, on very worthless designs ; but this 
is an abuse, and is chargeable on the artist or his employer, 
and can never be brought in argument against the art itself. 
The same powers of execution which would delight us when 
employed upon a design of Michelangelo, or any other great 

properly called optics, which accounts for the false appearance of visible 
things, occasioned by their distance. As for example, for the apparent 
coincidence of parallel lines ; for the sight of quadrangular objects in the 
form of circular — into catoptricks, which treats of the various reflections 
effected upon some particular bodies, by which means the similarity of 
external things is to be perceived, — and into what is called sciographic, 
which teaches how the apparent objects in pictures should appear neither 
improportional, nor deformed, on account of the distances and heights of 
the objects painted." 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. v. 

man, would not fail to produce disgust, when thrown away 
upon a contemptible design of some inferior artist. 

I must again repeat it, that this happy union of high and 
low rilievo, perspectively sinking into a proper intaglio, is, 
with the knowledge of the eighteenth century, capable of 
producing the sublimest and most wonderful effects in sculp- 
ture, and would be the ultimatum of that art. Even such a 
group as the Laocoon, situated in a proper corresponding 
back-ground, would receive an additional interest by being 
only the principal in such a scene. * 

Thus much at present for the consideration of lights and 
darks, their proportionate rilievo, and their advantageous 
distribution, f It will be for our purpose in the close of this 
discourse, to impress upon the recollection of the student, as 
a fact of the utmost importance, that the happy and artist- 
like management of the light and shade of figures can have 
no solid and reputable basis but in sound drawing. 

Skilfully to ascertain the precise commencement, termina- 

* Barry's customary acuteness singularly fails him here ; what sort 
of effect would even the noblest design have in the back-ground, when 
cut up by the shadows of such a principal group as the Laocoon? The 
application of this very principle has deprived the gates of Ghiberti of 
more than half their beauty. Linear and aerial perspective cannot be 
separated; and if this principle is applied to reliefs in sculpture, colour 
must also be applied to remove the remoter parts from the surface ; but 
even then half only of the objection is removed, if any part of the design 
is in high relief, which must throw a shadow on the back-ground. — W. 

f Whether bas-relief be large, and in marble, or small, on a medal or 
coin, or impressed from the lapidary's work in intaglio, the principles 
which constitute its excellence are ever and invariably the same. It is 
susceptible of all the fine qualities of Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, 
and Carracci ; whatever there be exquisite in the Grecian gusto may be 
united to all the vigour of effect in the Flemish school. 

Hedlinger 1 has done much as to the general effect, spirit, and, above 
all, the variegated beauty and harmony of his compositions ; his piquant 
light, sustained by the varieties of middle and lower tints, resulting from 
his admirably diversified surface into all the gradations of quiescence and 
relief, where nothing is repeated either as to magnitude, form, force, or 
rilievo, and where whatever Rubens, Vandyck, Both, Berghem, or Rem- 
brandt, could effect by the magic of chiaroscuro, as far as his composi- 
tions go, is most gracefully attended to — whether in his portraits, the 
hair, draperies, &c, or in his reverses. 

1 Johann Carl Hedlinger, a celebrated Swiss medalist : he died in 1771, 
in his eightieth year. — W. 




tion, and variegated forms of the lights, half lights, and 
shades, their just degrees of force and tenderness, which 
ought to be the sole result of the several configurations, 
aspects, proximity, and remoteness of the figures ; to ascer- 
tain and render these with a becoming skill, is as much the 
part of intelligent and accurate drawing, as fixing the cha- 
racter and the contour. And as the arrangement of these 
several particular enlightened and shaded objects must de- 
pend on the composition, and consequently arise out of the 
very nature of the subject itself, it must then appear evident, 
that the becoming and adequate chiaroscuro, or the advan- 
tageous arrangement of all these several lights and shades, 
with those other naturally bright and obscure objects of a 
picture which produce in the whole result an expressive, 
sentimental, and harmonious totality, can only arise out of 
the most essential considerations of art. 

The materials which it employs* being necessarily absolute 
in their figure and determination, must, then, be derived from 
intelligent drawing. The collocation of these materials form 
the composition proper to the subject. And the whole must 
form a just and proper ground-work for those enchanting 
hues of colour which decorate the surface, and give the last 
finish and perfection to objects. 

As the chiaroscuro is so intimately connected with the 
colouring of a picture, and is, indeed, its natural basis and 
support, we shall (God willing) resume the further consi- 
deration of it in the discourse on colouring, where their 
united extent, and the comparative merits of the great artists 
whose excellence lay this way, will be best seen. 

This discourse on colouring, and the comparative merits of 
the great colourists, I shall offer to your consideration at our 
next meeting. 

Lecture YI. — On Colouring. 


When the art was in an immature state, and its different 
parts w r ere in growth and progress, the standard or idea of 




perfection of which it was susceptible did, with the people 
at large, and, perhaps, with the greatest part of the artists 
themselves, little more than keep pace with those works 
which were actually produced at the time. The general 
taste and idea of perfection went on advancing only in pro- 
portion to the advanced degrees which the artists had 
attained in the perfection of form, or in the expression, or in 
rilievo and colouring ; or afterwards in the uniting of all 
these as so many constituent parts of a more expanded or 
cultivated whole. Hence the admiration and praises which 
have been bestowed upon the rudest, the more limited, or 
the more extended and cultivated productions of the several 
periods of this progress are expressed in the same hearty 
terms of warmth and excess. 

The history of art does not mention any work which was 
received with a more extensive, extraordinary eclat and 
admiration than the Madonna of Cimabue, which is yet to 
be seen at Santa Maria Novella ; although it is very certain 
that this work, with all its past celebrity, would not, in the 
estimation of our age, and considered merely for the skill of 
the artist, carry away the palm from the queen of hearts or 
diamonds. * 

The very great deficiencies of this work of Cimabue might, 
perhaps, induce some to think that he could not possibly have 
availed himself of the inspection of nature when he painted 
it. But the imitations of early art are exactly like those of 
children ; nothing is seen even in the spectacle before us, 
until it be in some measure otherwise previously known and 
sought for, and numberless observable differences between 
the ages of ignorance and those of knowledge show how 
much the contraction or extension of our sphere of vision de- 
pends upon other considerations than the simple return of 
our mere natural optics. The people, then, of those ages 

* Here again Barry exhibits his partiality for the material in art : 
there is an exalted sentiment and expression in this primeval work far 
beyond the attainment of the mass of draftsmen and colourists of the later 
academic ages. This picture was finished some short time after the year 
1266, when Charles of Anjou visited the painter's studio to see it, and such 
Avasthe popular jubilee when it was shown on that occasion to the people, 
that the district acquired the name of the Borgo Allegri ; and there is to 
this day a street of that name near the Port' alia Croce. The picture 
when finished was carried to the church in public procession. — rW. 




only saw so much, and admired it, because they knew no 

It behoves us, then, young gentlemen, to reflect that 
when, from various intercourse and communication, the 
public obtains possession of an idea of art, as a great complex 
whole, its constituent parts being brought to maturity, and 
happily and extensively united, it will be then absurd to ex- 
pect, that out of compliment to whatever narrow faculties 
we may choose to cultivate, this public taste shall go back 
again to what it has long since left, and bestow praise and 
admiration upon such little particulars of colour or resem- 
blance as were wont to arrest its attention in the infancy of 
things. Such indulgence is not now to be thought of, but 
perhaps quite the reverse ; for unfortunately in proportion as 
the world grows more enlightened, fastidiousness, and a use- 
less and too critical nicety may be expected to increase also, 
and sometimes to the no small annoyance of the truest feel- 
ings and judgment. 

Many of the old Venetian painters, even Giorgione, and 
others of the same time, did in their pursuit of colouring, of 
force, brilliancy, and beauty of effect, overlook almost all the 
other parts of the art. Although this deficiency was not im- 
puted as any drawback from their reputation, and probably 
entered as little into the then public idea as into that of the 
artists ; yet, as was before observed, things are now very dif- 
ferently circumstanced, and there cannot be the least doubt 
but that more censure than celebrity would follow from such 
a procedure at this time. The higher requisites of the art, 
which have been the subject of the preceding discourses, 
cannot at present be dispensed with, and the persuasion of 
this truth is so generally felt, that when an artist is not well 
grounded in these essentials, and has, from the objections 
which may be offered, frequent occasion to alter the drawing, 
and to disturb and to rub in and out different parts of his 
work whilst he is painting it ; however well he may be ac- 
quainted with the use and practice of colours, yet even this 
will not always be apparent in his work : the loads of dis- 
cordant colour which must be the consequence of such irre 

* It was admired by the people, not as an extraordinary work of art, 
which, however, it was, but as an object of devotion, of a grandeur sur- 
passing all others that they were acquainted with. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. vi. 

solution and frequent alterations, must naturally destroy the 
purity of the tints, and ultimately produce destructive fer- 
mentations, mucldiness, and mutability ; at the same time that 
it defaces, or will not admit any of that beauty of execution 
and penciling which is the natural offspring of a familiar 
knowledge of the configuration of the several detailed parts, 
and of certainty and masterly precision in the drawing of 
them. This inconvenience was not experienced by the old 
colourists, for as they were indulged in the narrow limits 
they prescribed to themselves ; whatever proportions or 
forms they first hit upon, these were adhered to steadily ; 
as but little regard was paid to any thing but the arrange- 
ment and conduct of their colours, their several tints, and 
foundations of tints, were therefore laid undisturbed in their 
places, and brilliancy, purity, permanence, and a handsome, 
workmanlike method of handling followed of course.* 

For reasons not very dissimilar, one seldom finds an ill- 
coloured picture in the Dutch school ; the little more or the 
little less in the drawing could make no difference worth at- 
tending to, where they regarded not so much the beauty or 
perfection of the human form, as the contrary : it was not 
easy to err in the drawing and composition of works formed 
out of trite, vulgar, slattern matter, level to the meanest and 
most mechanical capacity. 

As a good method of colouring can only be obtained by 
proceeding with decision and promptitude, whether at the 
expense of all the grand essentials of art, or in a strict con- 
formity with them ; and as the former of these methods of 

* It must be confessed that, the supposing the absence of any neces- 
sity for altering the drawing, is rather a strange way of accounting for 
good colouring. If the early painters did not alter their drawing after 
they commenced to colour, it only shows that they were more prudent 
workmen than the later artists who have done so. The early painters 
generally worked from drawings, or cartoons, and did not commence to 
put on their colours until they hud finished their design, according to the 
best of their judgment : this system would be equally effective with the 
rudest or the most accomplished design. So sound a practice is not an 
index of either an indifference to form or of a rude age ; on the con- 
trary, if good colouring depends upon this abstaining from all alteration 
of the once defined forms, it is imperative on the artist thus to previously 
determine upon his forms, and all subsequent alterations must be set to 
the account of his own folly, for being a hasty, and inconsiderate, or 
vacillating designer. — W. 




practice would be no longer endurable, there remains now 
no other method of becoming practised with colours but 
that which is founded upon fixed design, proper choice of 
objects, and ability and unalterable precision in the drawing. 
Under this idea, then, that you are firmly persuaded of the 
necessity of previously determining all the several forms 
and situations of the different parts of your composition, and 
that the several characters, actions, and expressions of your 
figures are ably and correctly drawn upon the canvas, your 
next labour will be (and not before) skilfully to apply all 
those harmonious tints of colour which enrich the surfaces 
of those objects, and, according to their several natures, and 
their situations of proximity or distance, complete the ap- 
pearance of truth and reality. 

After a few words about w r hat has been affirmed as to the 
physical nature of colours, I shall proceed to lay before you 
the most authorised and surest observations which have 
fallen in my way upon the materials of colouring and the 
practice of the best colourists. 

People have been, for many ages, in possession of an opi- 
nion, that our sensation of different colours depended on the 
different ways in which light is communicated to us from 
the several configurations and differences of those corpuscles, 
and their interstices, which form the surfaces and several 
modifications of the different bodies, and severally and dif- 
ferently excite and stimulate the nerves employed in our 
sense of vision, with those peculiar irritations or sensations 
which we distinguish by the different ideas of colours, both 
simple and compound. And that great and excellent man, 
Mr. Boyle, has, both from analogy and experiment, adduced 
many proofs to show that this opinion appears to be founded 
on fact. 

Our knowledge of the nature of light, of the constituent 
matter and nature of surfaces, and of the animal organisation, 
is, at present, perhaps, too bounded to enter more deeply or 
specifically into this matter.* Happily, it is not necessary 
to our well-being here, and though our vanity may be mor- 
tified, we may, with Malbranche and Berkeley, very well 

* On this subject consult Dr. Brewster's Treatise on Optics, in Lard- 
ner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia; Field's Chromatography, and Eastlake's Trans- 
lation of Goethe's Theory of Colours. — W. 


210 barry's lectures. [lect. vi. 

content ourselves with the full and sufficient information of 
our senses, as well that of vision as every other, respecting 
the uses or injuries we may derive from the matters around 
us ; although they give us no information respecting the es- 
sence and real nature of any thing. For my own part, I 
feel but little conviction or satisfaction in the splendid theo- 
ries deduced from prismatic experiment, which have been 
handed clown for some time past with so much confidence ; 
where it is pretended to be demonstrated by this three - 
sided wedge of glass, that the solar light is not homogeneal, 
as was formerly supposed, but that it is combined of seven 
simple differently coloured pencils or rays of different refran- 

That colours are produced by the prism is evident ; but 
it is not evident from this, that what they call the specific 
coloured rays or pencils did previously exist in the light 
which passed through this triangular medium, and that the 
aspects and different surfaces of the component parts of the 
prism itself contribute nothing, and have no other effect in 
the production of this phenomenon but simply to decompound 
and separate a certain combination of supposed heterogeneous 
rays of seven particular colours, of which it is imagined light 
consists. Such experiments appear to be, if not foreign to 
the real object of inquiry, yet at least very vague and incon- 
clusive, and to have been made by men but little practised 
in the progressional affinities or differences of colour. To 
offer one instance of this ; our philosophers have pretended 
to discover in the rain-bow just seven primitive colours, 
and they make no mention of any derivative colours in that 
phenomenon. But if they mean by primitive colours, co- 
lours simple and uncompounded of any others, why seven, 
when there are but three ? If they meant only to enumerate 
the differences, without regarding the actual fact of the pro- 
creation of the compounds from the primitives, why more than 
six ? or why not double that number, or even more, if all 
the intermediates are attended to ? 

It may be worth remarking, that Milton has, in a few 
words, described this appearance with a much more accurate 
and happy propriety : — 

— M And in a cloud, a bow 

Conspicuous, with three listed colours gay." 




And, in another place : — 

" His triple-coloured bow, whereon to look." 

But lest any one should think that our poet had, from de- 
fect of sight, overlooked the four other colours, we may quote 
the testimony of Aristotle, who has, with his usual accuracy, 
fallen upon the same tripartite division. 

It is well known to all painters, that there are no more, 
and that there can be no more than three simple primitive 
colours in the rain-bow, because there are no more colours 
of that character in nature than yellow, red, and blue. All 
the others in the rain -bow, and every where else, are com- 
pounds or derivatives, formed of these three uncompounded 
primitives, which appear to have no affinity, and to parti- 
cipate in nothing with each other. The red and yellow con- 
tribute nothing to the formation of blue ; the mixture of blue 
and red has no tendency to produce yellow ; so the yellow 
and blue will not produce the primitive colour, red, but the 
compound, green. The most perfect green tint of the rain- 
bow is that intermediate space, where the blue and yellow 
meet in equal powers or quantities. The same is true of 
the purple and orange, which are the intermediate spaces of 
the blue and red, and of the red and yellow ; and (if I may 
so express myself) all the filaments of participation in this 
harmonious texture are proportionally either more or less 
blue or yellow greens, red or blue purples, russet or golden 
orange, as the one or the other primitive predominates.* 
Although any of those three colours produce by their mix- 
ture an intermediate colour, of a soft and beautiful character, 
yet a mixture of three together, in equal degrees of power, is 
productive of nothing but the destruction of all impression 
cf colour, and is like a body which remains immovable 
when pushed all the different ways by equal forces. 

The impression of colour is equally annihilated when the 

* Although there are but three primitive colours, painters have nine. 
These are — Yellow, Red, Blue, which are primary ; Orange, Purple,. 
Green, which are secondary, being compounds of the primaries ; Russet r 
Olive, Citrine, which are tertiary, being compounds of the secondaries. 
All other gradations of colour are mere tints of the above, dark or 
light, according as they are mixed with black or white, or according to 
the proportions in which they are compounded ; thus, the variety of tints 
is infinite. — \V. 

p 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI. 

three colours are in the highest degree of brightness, by pro- 
ducing iv kite or light, or when, in their deepest hue, they 
produce black or total dark; or when in any of the inter- 
mediate states between those extremes of light and darkness 
(as is the case with the terrestrial colours we use), they, in 
their mixture, produce nothing but a grey or dirty tint, pro- 
portionally lighter or darker, and equally removed from any 
impression of colour. 

Although in the number of the red, blue, and yellow co- 
lours with which painters imitate nature, perhaps not one 
of them is perfect, considered simply ; and although our 
blacks and whites are far short of the force and depth of real 
light and total darkness, yet experience shows that those 
materials are, notwithstanding, sufficient to answer all the 
desirable ends of the most perfect imitation, and that, with 
the skill and management employed by the great colourists, 
nature has produced nothing which art cannot successfully 

We have many kinds of red, blue, and yellow colours, of 
different degrees of depth, or brightness of hue ; the colours 
of each class may be made use of to lead each other on 
through the degrees of chiaroscuro ; they may be further 
assisted when occasion requires it, either by the luminous 
quality of the colour underneath, or by a mixture with white 
or black ; and each of these methods is to be employed, as it 
may best answer the purpose of your imitation. Innumerable 
degrees of chiaroscuro, or light and dark tints, may, by these 
means, be obtained in any of the different classes of simple 
colours, or in any of the classes of purple, green, or orange, 
which are compounded of them. 

The difference between the tints obtained by transparency 
and those by a mixture with white and black is, that the 
former is more vivid and pure, and the latter more dirty, 
dull, broken, and greyish, as might be expected, seeing that 
white and black arise from a participation of all the three. 
.These dirty and broken colours * are, however, of the utmost 
importance in our art, and occupy the greatest part in all 
well coloured pictures. They contribute to show off with 
advantage the virgin tints, both simple and compound, and 

* Or rather the tertiary colours and their tints. — W. 




they are almost infinitely divisible, as well in the diversities 
of their hue, as in the degrees of their adulteration. 

Mixt, as was before observed, in equal quantities, they 
produce grey : in unequal quantities, they produce a dead, 
or greyish yellow, or blue, or red, or purple, green, orange, 
and in all degrees, from the first sullying of the tint down to 
its annihilation, into a lighter or darker grey. 

The endless variety with which this conduct is pursued in 
nature herself is truly wonderful and entertaining : on the 
one hand, it affords (and without the perplexity of too much 
difference) that boundless scope which is so grateful to the 
mind in all its objects of pursuit ; and on the other, it affords 
the only and true means whereby the tints of pure colour, 
and their simple compounds, receive a value, spirit, rarity, 
and importance, of which we could otherwise have had no idea. 

That beauty, then, which enchants us in the colouring of 
natural objects has less connexion with fine colours, or with 
a multiplicity and variety of them, than is vulgarly imagined. 
Each particular tint or colour, in itself, is common and ordi- 
nary enough ; all depends upon the taste and skill with 
which these tints are variegated and opposed to each other. 

To imitate with fidelity, sentiment, and even with its 
highest splendour and gaiety, all this harmonious arrange- 
ment in the colouring of natural objects, there is no necessity 
that the painter should employ any other than a few simple 
and ordinary colours ; yellow, brown, and red ochres ; blue, 
white, and black, with here and there, perhaps, a tincture of 
cinnabar, are all that is wanting to a man whose skill and 
ability knows how to make use of them to advantage.* 

With these, and these only, Giorgione and Titian have 

* This is not literally true, unless a great latitude is given to brown ; 
still then the carmines and lakes are excluded. It is well known that 
the Venetians were abundantly supplied with the finest colours of every 
description : their great trade with the East rendered the acquisition o*" 
them easy. When Philip II. ordered Michel Cocxie to copy the famous 
altar-piece of the Adoration of the Lamb, by the Van Eycks, Cocxie 
complained that he should not he able to procure a blue of sufficient ex- 
cellence for the drapery of the Virgin ; whereupon Philip wrote to Titian 
for some ultramarine, which he procured ; and it was of so costly a kind, 
that Cocxie used for the drapery of the Virgin alone a quantity of the 
value of thirty-two ducats. Van Mander, Het Levari der Schilders, &c. 
— W. 

p 3 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI. 

executed those immortal works, which have been hitherto 
the standard of beautiful and perfect colouring, and which 
are as far removed from a meagreness and poverty of tints, 
as they are from a tawdry meretricious gaiety. 

I have often had occasion to lament the great want of 
repositories of art in this metropolis, which, whilst they 
afforded the opportunities of inspection and study, abso- 
lutely necessary for your advancement, would also be further 
serviceable in forming the taste of the public. In no part of 
the art is this vexation more severely experienced than in 
the want of a standing collection of good pictures.* The 
public at Paris are in no clanger of being misled in their 
ideas of old and standard art by the exaggerated puffing 
catalogues, and other frauds of auctioneers, and mercenary 
picture-dealers, with which, until very lately, it was our 
misfortune to be annually infested. At Paris no amateur 
can be deceived in his notion of fine colouring, and of the 
conduct, style, and manner of Titian. No young artist need 
be interrupted in his studies whilst he has such frequent and 
easy access to the legitimate undoubted works of the great 
artists in the noble and invaluable collections of the Luxem- 
bourg, Palais Royal, and Versailles, not to mention others. 
To a collection like one of these I could wish to refer you 
for the inspection of Titian's art and management of tints ; 
as the acquisition of this part of our art does, more than any 
other, absolutely depend on the practical lessons of a skilful 
master, or the close inspection and investigation of able per- 

However, as some general observations may be, and have 
been usefully made upon the conduct and practice of colour- 
ing, I shall lay such of them before you as may seem likely 
to be attended with most profit. 

Although something might be obtained in point of expedi- 
tion by painting upon a darkish ground, which approaches 
near the middle tint of your work, yet it is not the best 

* A desideratum now happily supplied by the establishment of the 
National Gallery, which, notwithstanding the short period of its exist- 
ence, little more than a quarter of a century, is truly worthy of its name; 
though it is to be hoped that in future purchases some regard will occa- 
sionally be directed to the illustration of the historical progress of paint- 

g, and the distinctive varieties of the schools. — W. 




method, as it will greatly tend to corrupt and destroy the 
purity and fidelity of all your lighter tints, particularly if 
you do not employ a great body of colour in the laying them 
in ; for though we have some colours which are particularly 
called transparent, in contradistinction to those which are 
less so, yet all colours participate of transparency in some 
degree ; and when a light colour, though opaque, is thinly 
spread over a dark one, it is by the colour underneath ren- 
dered dim and muddy. Whereas, on the contrary, the dark 
colour laid over the light one increases its brilliancy. The 
best mode of practice, then, is that of employing stiff body 
colour on a white ground, or on one nearly approaching it, 
as was the custom of Titian, Rubens, Vandyck, and the other 
good colourists. From this you work down, proceeding 
darker and darker, and reserving your transparent colours 
and darkest touches and tints for the last. By this method, 
if you do not otherwise prevent it, the effects of time upon 
your work will be rather for its advantage and its greater 
brilliancy, than the contrary. However far you may be 
inclined to advance matters in your bozzo, or first colouring 
(and the further you can complete your forms and general 
effect the better), yet the making out, or rather, if I may be 
allowed the expression, the carving out with your pencil all 
the detailed particulars, the joints and other knotty parts of 
the body, according to the happy characteristic delineations 
of their several forms and perspective aspects, had better, 
perhaps, be reserved for the second colouring, or repassing 
over your work, because you will be then freed from many 
considerations, and the better enabled to attend to those par- 
ticulars, and execute them at once. You may afterwards 
heighten, or give them what depth you please, when you are 
giving force and transparency to the shadows, and harmony 
to your general effect ; but all the spirit and felicity in the 
handling of those parts would be greatly and unavoidably 
impaired by the repetition or twice painting of them. The 
transparency, force, and beauty of your last colouring will 
greatly depend upon the clearness of your bozzo, or first 
colour, which should be in the middle tint, and the shadows 
rather of a cold, greyish, or pearly hue, more or less, accord- 
ing to the nature of your carnation, as this will be the best 
basis for the transparencies that are to be obtained in repass- 

p 4 



[lect. VI. 

ing those parts with the warm and more oleaginous colours 
with which you finish ; and it will also prevent the necessity 
of employing the warm and cold tints at the same time, 
which by their mixture would produce muddiness and opacity 
where the contrary is wanting. 

Those colours without body, which are more immediately 
considered as transparent, are to be used with great caution, 
for though they are necessary to give a richness and depth 
to the dark colours, by preventing that mealy appearance 
which results from the light' resting and glittering on their 
surfaces, yet as these transparent pigments carry with them 
much oil, and but little colour, they in time would necessarily 
become injurious, should you too indiscreetly employ them 
in veiling over the lighter tints. 

In conformity with that principle of selection which has 
been pursued through the design, composition, and other 
parts of the art, we must in the colouring also, not content 
ourselves with making a mere imitation of such tints and 
associations of colour as the natural objects may casually 

Selection and perfection are your objects in all things, and 
not mere casual fact. Everything is bad, and to be rejected, 
when better can be found. We have, in the last discourse, 
had occasion to observe, that the effect of chiaroscuro should 
be so calculated as to co-operate and give all possible value 
and advantage to that expression and sentiment, which the 
subject ought to impress on the mind of the spectator. 

The same sensibility, which alone can regulate the proper 
mode, and degree of light or dark that is happily adapted to 
the subject, whether of the gay, majestic, or melancholy 
kind, must also direct and govern your choice in that general 
tone or hue of colour, which may predominate throughout 
these lights and darks, without injuring the local and proper 
tints of colour peculiar to the situation and nature of the 
several objects. 

The whole, and every part of your work, should wear the 
same character of gaiety or gloom ; and nothing can be more 
aptly calculated to give this last degree of completeness to 
the sentiment of your work, than the selection of such simple, 
compound, or broken colours, and such identical tones and 
degrees of those colours, as tally exactly with the happiest 




conceivable expression of your subject. This selection of 
ideal, poetical completeness in the whole, and in all its parts, 
is what makes our work an art of the mind, where all the 
higher faculties of man are employed : and it can never be 
too often, or too forcibly impressed upon your attention, that 
this sentimental assemblage of happily co-operating incidents 
and circumstances lies as much within the sphere of possible 
nature as any other assemblage, the most ordinary, vulgar, 
and uninteresting. 

Although the quality and degree of this general hue, or 
first tone of the picture, must necessarily predominate, and 
hold all the other tones of colour in a graduated subordina- 
tion, yet this may be done without infringing upon that 
tendency to an equilibrium which must, in some degree, be 
preserved between the warm and cold tints of colour, upon 
which the harmony of your arrangement does much depend ; 
and all these attentions may be very well combined, whether 
your light be contracted or more diffused, communicated 
through a hazy or clear medium, of a warmish or a more 
cold colour, more bright or more gloomy : the characteristic 
peculiarities of a morning, noon, or evening light, may be 
easily preserved under any of those circumstances of differ- 

Contrariety and difference being no less necessary in the 
colouring of a picture than affinity and accord, the judicious 
artist will find numberless resources, of which in either case 
he may avail himself, without in the least departing from the 
verity of nature. For example, opposition or agreement will 
depend upon the association or dissociation of colours with 
or without those intermediates of compound, half, or broken 
colour, which soften and still their difference. Besides, as 
each colour, whether simple or compound, is susceptible of 
innumerable degrees of illumination and obscurity, strength 
and weakness ; the accord and affinity, or the discord and 
contrariety of those degrees of their chiaroscuro may be any 
of them adopted, as occasion shall require. 

Further, although light is the cause why we distinguish 
the colour proper to each object, yet the differences of colour 
of the several objects will be most apparent, not in the most 
prominent parts, which receive the greatest degree of light, 
but in the parts next to them, where the light has but the 

218 barry's lectures. [lect. yi. 

second degree of strength. The reason of this is, that the 
peculiarities of colour are, in some measure, absorbed in the 
highest degree of illumination, where the light glitters, and 
has a tendency to produce its own image, as in a mirror, or 
other smooth surface. The differences of colours are also 
less distinguishable, and more inclined to accord, in propor- 
tion to their immersion in the half tint, and in the shade, in 
the deepest degree of which they are quite lost. 

The harmonical effect of colouring depending upon the 
judicious arrangement of the accords, and the contrarieties 
in the several tones and hues of colour ; a very slight tran- 
sition of hue from the colour of one object to another will 
be sufficient for the extension of your accord, and may be 
rendered more or less sensible by preserving them in larger 
or more contracted masses ; but massive they must be, or 
their effect is lost. 

The contrariety between the portions or masses of colour 
may be mellowed, softened, or rendered less striking by the 
gradual progress of the one into the other, by means of an 
intermediate or third mass, and it may be rendered more 
striking and forcible by their direct and immediate opposi- 
tion ; both these methods may be happily employed in dif- 
ferent parts of those masses, as the sentiment and effect of 
the work may require their union, or their precipitate 

Nothing can contribute more to the beautiful and har- 
monious effect of vour colouring than a careful attention to 
those varieties of tint and hue which arise from the colour 
reflected by one object upon another. This communication 
of reflected colour, which is often mutual, may serve not 
only to unite and extend your lights, but also to reconcile 
any differences or antipathies amongst the colours which 
border on each other. As the direct colour is always more 
powerful than the reflected, the latter may be occasionally 
flung with vast benefit into certain parts of the middle tint 
and shade, where animation and variety may be wanting. 
Objects and situations the most dull and colourless are occa- 
sionally susceptible of this participation. 

Thus, it is very apparent that a well coloured picture has 
many advantages and perfections, which, though all of them 
strictly natural, are but rarely and partially united by nature 



herself. How very important a part these innumerable 
hues of colour have in the formation of this beautiful assem- 
blage of imitated or natural objects, may be accurately seen 
on comparing a fine print after Berchem, Wouverman, Wat- 
teau, Rubens, or Titian, with the pictures of those fine 
colourists. Although what is called the colour of a print 
has been greatly improved and advanced since the time of 
Vischer and Pontius, yet the phrase is improper and inac- 
curate, as there is no colour produced in a print. What 
those meant who first adopted the phrase is, the chiaro- 
scuro, or light and dark, in contradistinction to mere light 
and shade, which was, for the most part, all that the old 
engravers attended to. All the tints, or degrees of light and 
dark, the comparative lightness or darkness of different 
carnations, or heavier or lighter coloured draperies, or other 
objects, may be, and indeed are now happily rendered by 
our engravers, but the variety and difference in the hues of 
colour certainly cannot. 

Mr. Norden, and other travellers, speak in great raptures 
of the vast works in Upper Egypt, where the ancient artists 
had united basso-rilievo and colouring in the same perform- 
ance. These travellers have not told us whether the whole 
scene or natural appearance of advanced and remote objects 
was attempted : as it would be of importance to know how 
far the objects in the second or third plans were either 
sculptured or painted, or both, and how it fared with the 
sky and distance of those historical representations ; for as 
such they speak of them. A few specimens of this kind of 
work might surely be obtained with ease, and would be a 
great desideratum in the invaluable collection at the British 
Museum.* Besides the qualification of general curiosity, 
they would greatly contribute to elucidate the history and 
progressional improvement of the arts ; and it is highly pro- 
bable that some advantage would also result from the oppor- 
tunity of inspecting those durable materials of colour, which 
have triumphed over such an immense tract of time. Cer- 
tainly some attention is due to the effect those works had 
upon the feelings of our travellers ; and the rapturous admir- 
ation they have expressed, ought to incline us to admit that, 
in a certain degree, the arts of painting and sculpture may 
* There are now copies of such works in the Museum. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. vi. 

be agreeably united, notwithstanding that the Greeks, who, 
according to Pausanias, had also practised something like this 
in the early times of their art, seem to have rejected it after- 
wards upon more mature consideration.* For after all rea- 
sonable allowance, it is certain that, if in this mixture of 
the two arts, we should be inclined to attempt the repre- 
sentation of the whole scene, the result must infallibly be 
lame, defective, and even absurd ; since, although the re- 
lieved and sculptured part will afford different lights and 
shades, very sensible in the advanced objects, and propor- 
tionably less so in those more retired and of lower relief ; 
and though the colour of those objects may be more or less 
forcible, so as to correspond with their local situation ; yet 
the hues of colour in the sky and distance must frequently 
be at jar with the light and shade of the advanced parts. 
For if, when the light is on the right side of the work, the 
hues of colour on the sky and distance be accommodated to 
a morning effect, they cannot afterwards adapt themselves 
to the noon appearance, and upon a still further change of 
the luminary to the left side, they will be in direct contra- 
diction to the effect of an evening or setting sun.f 

The association, then, of those arts would not answer the 
end proposed ; and we may confidently and safely conclude 
that painting, as it was practised by the great artists of the 
three last centuries, is alone adequate to all the occasions of 
perfect imitation. 

The Cartoons of Raphael excepted, which are painted in 
distemper or size colour, almost all the principal works of 
painting now remaining have been executed either in fresco 
or oil. i The method of painting in fresco is attended with 
some difficulties, which do not occur in distemper or oil. 

* The Greeks coloured their sculpture and their architecture, even in 
the best ages. See the note on this subject to Fuseli's Introduction to 
his Lectures. — W. 

j- The grounds of the Greek bassi-rilievi were not coloured in imita- 
tion of nature, but simply to separate the sculptures from their grounds. 
_ W. 

\ Mantegna's Triumph of Julius Caesar is also in distemper, as are also 
nearly all the easel pictures yet remaining of the period anterior to the 
fifteenth century ; yet many works, even of that age, both in Italy and 
in the Netherlands, are executed in distemper, a method which was then 
practised with great technical perfection. — W. 




It affords no opportunity of obtaining depth, transparency, 
or a mixture of cold and warm hue in the same tint, by 
covering one colour with another ; and it requires the very 
great ability of absolutely and unalterably determining the 
precise hue, strength, or weakness of the several tints in 
the very moment of laying them on, without a power of 
any subsequent softening or blending those tints. To ob- 
viate, in some measure, the necessity of encountering all those 
difficulties together, the painters in fresco are not only pro- 
vided with a cartoon, or large correct drawing, the size of 
the work, from which they trace as they go on, but they 
have also a smaller finished performance, either in oil or dis- 
temper, where the effects of the chiaroscuro, and the hues of 
colour, are previously studied and determined. Without these 
necessary precautions it would be impossible to execute a 
great work in fresco; and even with them, it requires such 
spirit, frankness, decision, and graceful easy execution, as 
can alone result from great intelligence and ability. 

There being so little particularly worth remarking in the 
ancient frescoes* which have been dug out of the ruins of 
Home, and in those found in Herculaneum, our attention 
will be more usefully employed on the more modern pro- 
ductions, where it is in general observable, that the best 
coloured pictures of the Roman school are those painted in 

The Madonna della Sedia, the Head at the Altoviti f, and 
a few other portraits in oil, seem to be entirely painted by 

* No veritable fresco painting has been yet discovered at Pompeii or 
Herculaneum ; all that have been discovered are in distemper, but the 
medium used appears to be of a most perfect description, and appears to 
be very similar to that used by the Italian painters in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, termed guazzo. Wax appears to have been an in- 
gredient commonly used by the ancient painters, but it was so prepared 
that their colours were soluble in water. Encaustic, which was practised 
by the later Greeks, and during the earlier centuries of our era, appears 
to have been nothing more than burning in with a heater (cauterium) 
the ordinary wax colours. Some account of the methods of the ancient 
painters is given in the editor's article on Painting in the Dictionary of 

Greek and Roman Antiquities. Taylor and Walton, 1841. A full account 
of the methods of the middle and later ages is given in Eastlake's Materials 
for a History of Oil Painting. — W. 

f Now at Munich : it is disputed whether this head be the portrait of 

Raphael, or of his friend Bindo Altoviti. — W. 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. vi. 

Raphael himself, and are excellently well coloured, much 
better than his Santa Marguerita, his Holy Family, St. John, 
or than a great part of the Transfiguration ; the tints of 
which picture, particularly in all the advanced parts, are 
greatly corrupted and injured by a sooty, dense colour, 
which predominates in the shadows, and was probably made 
use of by Julio Romano, in retouching and finishing the 
picture after Raphael's death. It is, therefore, in the Dispute 
of the Sacrament, the School of Athens, the Miracle at 
Bolsena, the Galatea*, and the other frescoes, that we are 
enabled to form any equitable judgment of the whole extent 
of Raphael's science in colouring, such as it was. These 
pictures have altered nothing in their colouring ; the several 
objects are well coloured, separately considered, and their 
several hues of colour even make, on the whole, an agreeable 
assemblage ; but what from the want of availing himself of 
the accord and mellowness brought about by reflexes, and 
his not being perfectly apprised that there was a chiaro- 
scuro of colours, and of the tints of colour, as well as of 
mere light and shade, it is certain, that in the colouring 
part, these immortal works are short of the perfection and 
of the superiority they possess in almost every other. 

The best coloured works of Annibal Carracci are those 
which he executed at Bologna, in conjunction with his two 
relations, with Guido, and his other scholars. His hue of 
colour was then better and warmer than that which he after- 
wards adopted in the Farnese gallery. But notwithstanding 
that Carracci's particular objects are, in point of colour, in- 
ferior to those of Raphael, yet, with respect to the general 
effect, and economy of the whole mass of light and dark 
colours in each subject, the pictures of Carracci have very 
much the advantage. 

But the fresco ceiling of Pietro da Cortona, at the Bar- 
barini palace, is perhaps the best instance which can be 
given, of all the brilliancy, force, mellowness, variety, and 
harmonious management of colours, that is any where to be 
met with in so large a machine in fresco. The middle tints 
and shadows appear to have all the transparency of oil, 
without any of those disadvantages which so frequently 

* In the Villa Ghigi in Trastevere, afterwards known as the Farne- 
sina. — W. 




follow it. It is to be regretted that truth obliges one to say- 
so much of a man who has so greatly contributed to the 
perversion of the other more important parts of the art, and 
whose seducing works, if the student is not previously well 
grounded in the great essentials of design, and expressive 
sentimental composition, it were certainly much better he 
should never see. 

But to finish the enumeration of the fresco works ; Mengs* 
ceiling at Sant' Eusebio is (if my memory does not fail me) 
a very respectable specimen of ability and masterly conduct 
in chiaroscuro and colouring. 

Although painting in fresco is never likely to be much in 
use amongst us, yet it may be for your purpose, who paint 
in oil, to reflect that, if all those beautiful fresco works 
were necessarily accomplished at once painting, the same, 
and much more, \i it were necessary, can be done in oil by 
any artist of such ability and skill in drawing as will 
enable him to decide his forms at once, without fumbling 
through three or four strata of colour before he can find 
them. All that impasto or embodying of colour, which may 
be necessary for certain lucid parts, may be given as you go 
on ; and you may afterwards retouch, and give what depths 
you please ; as was the usual practice of Vandyck, not to 
mention others. His pictures, particularly his portraits, 
were evidently painted at once, with sometimes a little re- 
touching, and they are not less remarkable for the truth, 
beauty, freshness of their tints, than for the spirited mas- 
terly manner of their handling or execution. I could not 
offer to your consideration a more apposite and illustrious 
example of the success of this method of finishing as you 
go on than the portraits of Vandyck. They are every 
where to be met with in this country, and you may easily 
convince yourselves that his lights are sufficiently brilliant, 
forcible, and well embodied with colour, and betray no want 
of that impasto which furnishes the apology for loading 
those parts. Indeed, one should think that the very circum- 
stance of painting on a light ground precludes the necessity 
of any such practice. 

But in the painting of history, where you have more 
command of your time and your model, if you should think 
it necessary to have a greater degree of pastosity or charg- 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI; 

ing of colour on those parts than can be well managed at 
once painting, the other method I have before mentioned, 
is directly for your purpose, viz. by making a slight general 
dead colour of the whole, charging those lights with what- 
ever quantity of colour you wish, and conducting the middle 
tint and shadows, broad, cool, and indefinite as to their par- 
ticular and more minute details, all which you leave to be 
determined with spirit, and precision of form, and trans- 
parency of tint, in the second painting. This was the con- 
duct adopted by Titian in those pictures which he painted in 
what is called his second manner ; where the freedom of his 
execution was emancipated from his solicitous attention to 
the manner of Giorgione, or rather when he was conscious 
and satisfied that this inestimable manner was become his 

According to what is related by Yasari, it was from seeing 
some works of Da Yinci, that Giorgione adopted that mellow, 
forcible, deep toned manner of colouring from which he 
himself, and afterwards Titian, and the whole Yenetian 
school, derived so much glory. Many particulars, which 
might, if necessary, have corroborated this fact, were, no 
doubt, easily traceable in the time of Yasari. 

But there is in the apartments of Don Paolo Borghese at 
Rome a half figure of our Saviour, with other figures in the 
back-ground*, which, were it not for the superior excellence 
of the characters, expression, and drawing, which evidently 
mark the hand of Leonardo, might, as to the glow of colour- 
ing, and the majestic, deep tones of the figures in the back- 
ground, very well pass for a picture of Giorgione. There 
are passages even in Leonardo's Treatise on the Art which 
directly lead to this manner, and (as the book was occasion- 
ally written as matter of reflection occurred) were no doubt 
penned down at the time when the first ideas of this glori- 
ous improvement in the conduct of lights and colours sug- 
gested itself. 

What makes this matter still more incontrovertible is the 
force, rilievo, and beautiful mellow colouring which at the 
very same time Fra. Bartolomeo also adopted from Leonardo 
da Yinci. 

* Christ arguing with the Pharisees, now in the National Gallery. 
— W. 




It is worth remarking, that the further prosecution of this 
beautiful manner of colouring at Florence ceased after Fra. 
Bartolomeo ; as their artists from that time employed them- 
selves in the study of Michelangelo's manner and style of 
design, almost to the utter exclusion of every other pursuit. 
But, at Venice, Da Vinci's happy discovery had better suc- 
cess, as the cultivation of it became more or less the unre- 
mitting object of the attention of all their artists, from 
Giorgione down to Tiepolo and the painters of the present 
day. As the native writers of the Venetian story of Art 
have sedulously and ungratefully avoided any mention of 
their obligation to Leonardo, justice, truth, and my venera- 
tion for this great father of modern art, would not suffer me 
to overlook it on this occasion. 

The pictures of Giorgione, being mostly painted for private 
people, are, at present, unfortunately, no less difficult to be 
found than those of the latter time of Leonardo. There is, 
at Venice, but one undoubted, undisputed picture of Gior- 
gione in oil. This picture, which is at the Scuola de' Sar- 
tori, is very well preserved : it is composed of half figures 
of the Madonna and Bambino, San Joseph, Santa Barbara, 
&c. It is in many parts ill drawn, and, from the subject and 
disposition of it, affords but little opportunity for those pe- 
culiar excellencies which distinguished Giorgione. But, 
notwithstanding, there is enough to account for the very ex- 
traordinary admiration in which he was held. The warm, 
tender glow which is diffused over his carnations, the 
breadth, force, and transparency of his shadows — their happy 
accord with each other, and with the lights and middle 
tints — and the majestic dusky hues of his secondary lights, 
are, indeed, of the most exquisite relish, and had left no- 
thing further to be wished for, but the extension of the 
same intelligent, happy conduct to the larger and more in- 
teresting compositions, which soon followed in the works of 
his disciples and imitators. 

The few pictures which remain of Fra. Sebastiano at 
Venice, are, for rilievo, richness, depth, and majesty of hue, 
very Giorgionesque, but it is in the most valued and precious 
works of Titian that we find this style at the highest. His 
Madonna, St. Sebastian, St. Catherine, &c, at the Frari ; 
his St. Mark, St. Sebastian, &c, at the Salute, and his other 



barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI. 

works at this time, afford the fairest exhibition of what 
Giorgione had done. The style which Titian afterwards 
adopted from the hurry of practice, and which is not im- 
properly called his own manner, was not of so high a relish 
for rilievo and hue, though always admirable and full of 
excellence, and perhaps (certainly in his own opinion) better 
adapted to concentrate all his views with respect to the 
execution of extensive historical compositions. 

In this class is his famous picture of St. Peter, Martyr ; 
the Annunciation ; the admirable picture of the Christ 
crowned with Thorns, at Milan ; the Death of Abel ; the 
Abraham and Isaac ; the David and Goliath, and the greatest 
part of his works. 

In his latter times, indeed, he carried this bravura, or mas- 
terly execution, to a vicious extreme ; yet, to the last, amidst 
all his dashing and slobbering, there is still remaining some 
grateful savour of that exquisite order, without which colours 
can have neither force, reality, nor value. Much as I wished 
it and sought it, I have never been able to meet with any of 
those copies which were said to exist of Titian's large compo- 
sition of the Battle of Cadore, which unfortunately perished 
in the burning of the Council-hall, a few years after it was 
painted. The order and management of Titian's tints, in an 
extensive composition, must then be sought for in his fol- 
lowers, Tintoret and Paul Veronese. 

Tintoret is very unequal in his works, and has left behind 
him a greater number of bad, or, which is nearly the same 
thing, of middling works, than any other artist of reputation. 
The effect of his chiaroscuro is often admirable, and it is 
sometimes equally well-tinted in point of colour. His very 
spirited masterly picture of the Miracle, at the School of St. 
Mark*; his Crucifixion, at the School of S.Rocco ; the Resur- 
rection, at the Palace, and some other of his works, are ex- 
cellent examples of sound principles of light and colour, and 
of vigorous spirited execution. But the same impetuous 
spirit, to which are owing many of his greatest beauties, has 
much more frequently precipitated him into excesses, sub- 
versive of all intelligence and variety ; which must ever be 
unavoidably the case when it is not accompanied with equal 

* The Miracolo dello Schiavo, now in the Academy at Venice. — W, 




judgment, and with a reasonable allowance of time for this 
judgment to exert itself. Either of those is barren or abor- 
tive, as to excellence, without the other. 

Paul Veronese is an example which I would hold out to 
you with much more pleasure ; for the whole economy and 
practical conduct of a picture no man is more worthy your at- 
tention. His tints of colour, though often not equal in value 
to those of Titian, are, however, equally true, and necessarily 
much more variegated, from the great extent of his subjects. 
He has shown a most exquisite sensibility in according his 
almost endless variety of broken tints with the portions of 
pure vivid colour which accompany them ; and the harmony 
resulting from all those variegated masses of colour, together 
with the light, easy, graceful, spiritual manner in which the 
whole is conducted, leaves nothing further to be wished for 
in this part of the art. 

In this school, then, is to be found all that can be desired 
respecting the scientific, necessary conduct to be employed in 
the colouring of a picture. In colouring, the Venetians were 
select and ideal, and have proceeded with a finesse and 
management quite the reverse of the conduct they adopted 
in the other parts of the art. Whilst those of the other 
schools of Italy who had availed themselves of the ideal res- 
pecting design and composition, have been equally defective 
in not pursuing the same selection in the chiaroscuro of 
their colours. 

Thus it appears that the admiration, as well as the disrelish, 
which has followed, the several acquisitions and deficiencies 
of those schools, tend equally to establish the truth of the 
maxim with which we set out, and which has so often oc- 
curred in the past discourses, viz., that the object of art is 
not the imitation of mere nature, but the imitation of nature 
happily chosen and completed in all its circumstances, so as 
to correspond with that possibility and perfection which the 
mind conceives, and with which only it can be satisfied. 

The completing this idea of art by uniting the several per- 
fections of the several schools and great men was the deside- 
ratum remaining. The Carracci set out with this noble 
object in view in the founding of their school, and although 
they advanced to a very great and respectable length in the 
completion of it, yet there remains still something, as well in 

q 2 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI. 

the altitude and degree of those perfections to be united, as 
in the very union itself. These great artists seem to have 
been not a little retarded by the mistake committed at their 
very outset, in not bestowing their attention upon the colour- 
ing of Titian and the Venetians in preference to the works 
of Correggio, for which they had contracted an early preju - 
dice, and which they had, from their vicinity, more frequent 
opportunities of inspecting. 

Correggio is, no doubt, upon the whole of his character, 
one of those very few artists of the first class ; and, not to 
mention any other of his admirable works, his picture in the 
academy at Parma * is, as far as it goes, and for an agreeable 
union of all the parts of the art, perhaps superior to any 
other picture in the world. His conduct of the chiaroscuro, 
as well in the colours as otherwise, is singularly excellent in 
all his works, but, notwithstanding, his tints of colour are, for 
variety and value, still short of what is found in Titian. 
Indeed, the object of Correggio's pursuit seems, like that of 
the Carracci themselves, to have consisted in uniting all the 
parts of the art, rather than in the particular cultivation of 
any one of them. 

It is a matter of surprise and astonishment that Rubens, 
who had so much general knowledge, such vigour of mind, 
added to an elegant, classical taste ; who arrived in Italy in 
the time of the Carracci ; who must have seen their works 
at Bologna, and even that master-work of art, the Farnese 
gallery ; and who, after what had been done by the different 
schools, could have no other rational prospect than that of 
adopting the same idea with the Carracci, in uniting these 
scattered members of art — it is, I cannot help saying, really 
astonishing that he was so little impressed by the beautiful, 
grand, and interesting character of design which Annibal 
had composed out of the works of Michelangelo, Raphael, 
and a still further attention to the details of nature, and 
which was so directly for his purpose, as there was really 
nothing wanting but to unite it to the colouring and chiaro- 
scuro of the Venetians, of which Rubens had made himself 
a perfect master. This happily castigated style of design is 
equally compatible with the best, as well as the worst system 

* Saint Jerome. — W. 




of chiaroscuro and colouring ; and nothing can be more idle 
and beside the point than those notions to the contrary which 
have been held by some men, otherwise knowing and in- 

The fecundity of Rubens's feeling and capacious mind 
with this style of design, united to his other important acqui- 
sitions, was exactly the conjunction required, and would 
certainly have placed him at the head of the art ; but, in lieu 
of this, the mode of design which he adopted was (as I have 
had occasion to show in another place), the creature of a false 
system, and has, besides the injury done to his own works, 
sullied and corrupted the greatest part of those of his disciples 
and followers ; nay, more, from the inconsiderate precipitation 
of shallow critics, it has furnished an imputation of scandal to- 
his country, as if any better and more elevated style of 
design was incompatible with the nature it produced. How- 
ever, Rubens did really make a happy use of the time he 
spent at Venice ; and it is but justice to say that the greatest 
part of his works are in the highest degree of perfection, both 
as to the chiaroscuro and colouring. Although, in some of 
his less happy performances it must be confessed that his 
colouring is sometimes attended with a false splendour, and 
his reflexes too artificial and overdone, so as to make his 
objects almost pellucid ; and although the harmony which 
results from the very judicious arrangement of his several 
masses of colour be very great, yet it appears less agreeable, 
and of an inferior relish to that which is found in the works 
of Paul Veronese. 

The happy effects of those sure and infallible principles of 
light and colour which Rubens had so successfully dissemi- 
nated in the Netherlands, were soon found in every depart- 
ment of art. Landscapes, portraits, drolls, and even the 
dullest and most uninteresting objects of still life, possess 
irresistible charms and fascination from the magic of those 

Rembrandt, who, it is said, was never at Venice, might, 
notwithstanding, have seen, without going out of his country, 
many pictures of the Venetian school. Besides, he was 
about thirty years younger than Rubens* , whose works 

* Rubens was born in 1577, Rembrandt in 1606; Rubens died in 
1640, Rembrandt in 1664. — W. 

Q 3 




were a general object of study when Rembrandt was forming 
himself. But, however it be, there is no doubt, for the 
colouring and chiaroscuro, Rembrandt is one of the most able 
artists that ever lived. Nothing can exceed the beauty, 
freshness, and vigour of his tints. They have the same 
truth, high relish, and sapidity as those of Titian. Indeed, 
they have the closest resemblance to the hues of Titian when 
he had Giorgione most in view. There is identically the 
same attention to the rilievo and force obtained by his 
strong shadows and low deep tones ; and his chiaroscuro, 
though sometimes too artificial, is yet often (particularly in. 
contracted subjects) productive of the most fascinating 
effects. It may be worth observing, that no part of Rem- 
brandt's excellence is derived from the loads of colour which 
he has employed, or from the obtrusive, licentious, slovenly 
conduct of his pencil, or his trowel^ which he is said to have 
used. Whether he was originally led to this affectation by 
the uncertainty of painting without previous determination, 
or whether it was the mere affectation of differing from his 
contemporaries, who were generally solicitous about high 
finishing, matters not ; but the practice ought to be avoided. 
If it had arisen, as it does in old Bassano, from an attention 
to the details of his objects, and was no where used but as 
these details called for it, it might appear the effect of a 
mastery and freedom which might plead its allowance ; but 
in Rembrandt it is not less disgusting than it is useless, for, 
although it may be true that the unpleasantness of the man- 
ner disappears at the proper distance for seeing the work, 
yet the effect of the picture at this distance has no advantage 
over a picture of his cotemporaries, Jordaens or Yandyck, 
whose tints are equally true and precious with those of Rem- 
brandt, but whose beautiful handling or manner of execution 
is much more compatible with all the other great concerns 
of art. 

This beautiful handling, or masterly execution, makes a 
very graceful feature in the works of Titian, Paul Veronese, 
Guido, and the other great artists, particularly the colourists, 
and so little has it to do with the unnecessary loading of 
colour, that the fabric of the very diaper upon which Titian 
painted his celebrated picture of St. John, is almost traceable, 
even in those parts where the colour is most charged. 




Happily, the works of Vandyck are not scarce in this 
country, and in them you will find admirable examples of 
what has been urged respecting the beautiful arrangement 
of light and colours, united to all the graces of intelligent 
masterly execution ; and his style of design is much more 
correct and beautiful than that of Rubens. 

But perhaps it may be necessary to remind you, that as 
for the most part the works we possess of this great man 
consist of portraits, where he was not at liberty to avail 
himself in any considerable degree of the opposition of sha- 
dow (particularly on the flesh), the vigour of his effects was 
necessarily and judiciously brought about by the mere chiaro- 
scuro, or opposition of the several colours proper to his 
object, and to the relatives which accompanied it. The 
observations, therefore, which these works afford upon the 
lower order of tints, and upon those in shadow and half- 
lights, will, necessarily, be too contracted to go all the length 
which your studies may require ; as I do not know that we 
are in possession of any of the few exquisite historical com- 
positions which he painted at his outset in life, before he 
was much engaged in portraits. 

But whether his subjects be extensive or contracted, they 
exhibit such excellent principles of art ; the tints of his car- 
nations have such verity in themselves, and such value, from 
the hues which are so judiciously associated with them in 
the draperies and back-ground, and the exquisite execution 
or conduct of his pencil is so very compatible with the most 
enlarged and consummate style of design and composition, 
that I know of no single model upon which your attention 
might be more properly engaged. Would to Heaven an op- 
portunity was afforded of planting your easels before some 
of his pictures hanging on these walls ! Your gratitude 
would, I am sure, be sensibly excited by the addition of this 
advantage to the many others which have been already con- 
ferred on us by the bounty of our most gracious Sovereign 
and Patron. Such a matter is much wanting to complete 
your education as painters. Let it not be said that we are 
inattentive to those interests and advantages which students 
may derive from the works of this great artist ; however 
foreigners may arraign us for suffering his ashes, wherever 
they have been deposited amongst us, to have been so long 

q 4 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. vi. 

unaccompanied with any little decent token of either affec- 
tion, gratitude, or hospitality.* 

* A just attention to the admirable principles of chiaroscuro and 
colouring discoverable in the fine works of Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, 
and Vandyck, must, more than any thing, lead us to reflect upon the great 
loss this Academy has sustained by the death of its illustrious president. 
In this very important part of the art Sir Joshua Reynolds was singularly 
excellent, and we might call to our recollection many of his works which 
have been exhibited on these walls, and which may be ranked with the 
finest examples of colouring and chiaroscuro. For a great part of his 
life he was continually employed in painting of portraits, undoubtedly 
because there was no demand in the country for any thing else, as the 
public taste had been formed to this by the long line of the Hudsons, 
Highmores, Jervas's, and Knellers who had preceded him, and whose 
works sufficiently testify from what a wretched state Sir Joshua raised this 
branch of the art, and how vigorous, graceful, and interesting it became 
by the masterly way in which he treated it. In many of Titian's portraits 
the head and hands are mere staring lightish spots, unconnected with 
either the drapery or back-ground, which are sometimes too dark, and 
mere obscure nothings ; and in Lely, and even in Vandyck, we sometimes 
meet with the other extreme of too little solidity, too much flickering 
and washiness. Sir Joshua's object appears to have been to obtain the 
vigour and solidity of the one, and the bustle and spirit of the other, 
without the excesses of either ; and in by far the greatest part of his por- 
traits he has admirably succeeded. His portrait of Mrs. Siddons is, both 
for the ideal and executive, the finest picture of the kind, perhaps, in the 
world — indeed, it is something more than a portrait, and may serve to 
give an excellent idea of what an enthusiastic mind is apt to conceive of 
those pictures of confined history, for which Apelles was so celebrated by 
the ancient writers. But this picture of Mrs. Siddons, or the Tragic Muse, 
was painted not long since, when much of his attention had been turned 
to history ; and it is highly probable that the picture of Lord Heathfield, 
the glorious defender of Gibraltar, would have been of equal import- 
ance, had it been a whole length ; but even as it is, only a bust, there is 
great animation, and spirit happily adapted to the indications of the tre- 
mendous scene around him, and to the admirable circumstance of the key 
of the fortress firmly grasped in his hands, than which imagination cannot 
conceive any thing more ingenious and heroically characteristic. 

It is perhaps owing to the Academy, and to his situation in it, to the 
discourses which he biennially made to the pupils upon the great prin- 
ciples of historical art, and the generous ardour of his own mind to rea- 
lise what he advised, that we are indebted for a few expansive efforts of 
colouring and chiaroscuro, which would do honour to the first names in 
the records of art. Nothing can exceed the brilliancy of light, the force, 
and vigorous effect of his picture of the Infant Hercules strangling the 
Serpents ; it possesses all that we look for, and are accustomed to admire, 
in Rembrandt, united to beautiful forms, and an elevation of mind, to 
which Rembrandt had no pretensions. The prophetical agitation of 




In the whole of what has been offered, I have, to the best 
of my power, endeavoured to lead your attention to the most 

Tiresias and Juno, enveloped with clouds, hanging over the scene like a 
black pestilence, can never be too much admired, and are, indeed, truly 
sublime. It is very much to be regretted that this picture is in the hands 
of strangers, at a great distance from the lesser works of Sir Joshua, as it 
would communicate great value and eclat to them. What a becoming, grace- 
ful ornament it would be in one of the halls of the city of London ; but 
from an unhappy combination of evils, generally attendant upon human 
affairs (particularly on those which, from their superior importance, are 
likely to excite much attention), there is, and there always has been, 
occasion to lament, that almost nine out of ten of those great opportuni- 
ties of the exertions of art have been little better than thrown away. 
When a great corporation, or any other great employer, are willing to 
bestow attention upon art, and expend largely for the gratification of the 
public taste in this way, there is then done all that can fairly be expected 
from them ; but whether this shall be well or ill directed is very fortui- 
tous; and as Fenelon, and all men of observation tell us, will depend 
greatly upon such tricks, artifices, and scrambling as must bring it more 
within the reach of meanness and cunning, from which nothing can be 
expected, than of that elevation of soul and wisdom that alone could do 
it honour. The great employer is the greatest, I had almost said the 
only, loser when he does not fortunately light upon an artist adequate to 
the undertaking : the labours of ignorance can be the vehicle of nothing 
creditable with posterity. The good favour of the employers, or the 
greatness of the undertaking, cannot give such an artist the necessary re- 
quisites. Although, then, there is no reasonable ground for blame or 
censure, yet there is much for regret and concern, as these combinations 
of artifice on the one side, and mistake on the other, are so often insepar- 
able concomitants in the concerns of art. A very striking instance of this 
unlucky combination happened not long since in a sister kingdom, 
where it appears that the viceroy and all the chief personages of the 
country were so far infatuated, as to throw away their countenance and 
attention upon a large historical picture painted by an engraver, which 
was to be a glorious record and commemoration in a great kingdom of a 
new order of knighthood and of St. Patrick, the patron of both : how 
such an artist could, in an enlightened age, and in the face of a Royal 
Academy, muster up the necessary effrontery for such an undertaking, 
and expect, and really find so much support in it, is a matter of real 

Nothing could be more fatal, than that the students of the Academy 
should ever be deluded into the notion that there are any short cuts to be 
found, by which the ends of art may be obtained, without all that long and 
previous education and labour that have been heretofore judged so neces- 
sary. The rejection of all the drawings for the Academy figure at the 
last contention for the medal, which never happened before, would incline 
one to think that some of the students are in too great a hurry, and wish 
to appear at the end as cheaply as possible. Although this be too much 


barry's lectures. 

[lect. VI. 

approved, comprehensive, and complete view of the art : and 
although it is certain that no artist ever did, or ever can, 

the character of the age we live in, yet it ought to be hoped that the 
students, young men with time before them, would heartily despise it, 
and learn to think more generously ; they, I persuade myself, were led 
into that precipitation by a late regulation regarding the duration of 
study, but which has been since done away ; to this we shall ascribe 
it, and not to any want of modesty in the students ; they will let no ex- 
amples of any seeming temporary success prevail with them, to have any 
reliance on whatever may be obtained by the disingenuous arts of cabal 
and intrigue. They will remember that, 

" Painful and slow to noble arts we rise, 
And long, long labours wait the glorious prize." 

Let it be the happiness of the students that this is the fact, that the ac- 
quisition of art requires much time and great labour ; this it is that will 
secure to themselves all that is valuable in their art, free from the inva- 
sions of vain people of rank and fortune, who, though they may be in- 
clined to dabble, and may sometimes obtain medals and little distinctions 
from other societies, yet will never bestow the necessary labour in the 
previous studies, which only can enable them ultimately to produce what 
is worthy of the art. Devote yourselves, then, generously to an honourable 
procedure, with a hearty contempt for all low cunning and short cuts ; 
detest all clubs and occasions of cabal: their prime object is to level every 
thing, and to give strength to the malignity of ignorance and incapacity, 
by extensive associations. Go home from the Academy, light your 
lamps, and exercise yourselves in the creative power of your art, with 
Homer, with Livy, and all the great characters, ancient and modern, for 
your companions and counsellors. 

These general reflections, which led us from Sir Joshua, have brought 
us to him again : the lustre of his character cannot but be profitable to 
you, in whatever way it be considered. His efforts of the historical kind 
were all made within the compass of a few years before his death. No 
student in the Academy could have been more eager for improvement 
than he was for the last twelve years; and the accumulated vigour and 
value which characterise what he has done within that period, to the 
very last, could never have been foreseen or expected from what he had 
done even at the outset of the Academy, and for some years after : it is 
to be regretted so much of this earnestness should have been suffered to 
evaporate without securing something more for the public. His mind was 
full of the idea of advancement and pursuit of the extraordinary and grand 
of the art ; he even in his last discourse seems to speak slightingly of his 
own pursuits in art, and said, that were he to begin the world again, he 
would leave all, and imitate the manner of Michelangelo. But nothing 
would be more unjust than to take this passage too literally ; it is 
the natural language of a mind full of generous heat, making but little 
account of what it had attained to, and rapidly in progress to something 
further. But surely, without either alteration or further advancement, 




arrive at the perfection of such a standard, any more than at 
that of the Stoics' 'perfect man, or any other of those ideal 

had it been Sir Joshua's fortune to have lived a little longer, and whether 
commissioned or not, had he contrived to have left in this great city 
some work, of the same majesty of effect, vigour, harmony, and beauty 
of colour, the same classical, happy propriety of character and intellectual 
arrangement as is conspicuous in his Infant Hercules, the business of 
his reputation had been completed, and his country would have the sa- 
tisfaction of showing a work that, upon a fair balance of excellence and 
deficiency on both sides, would not shrink from a comparison with the 
most esteemed works ; and you, young gentlemen, would be thereby 
possessed of a great advantage in assisting your studies, particularly in 
the chiaroscuro and colouring, in which he was so singularly excellent, 
and which are so essentially necessary to the perfection of your art. 

We shall long have occasion to remember the literary, I might say 
classical, talents which form another part of the character of this great 
man ; gracefully, highly ornamental, and most becoming his situation in 
this Academy. From the congeniality of mind which associated him in 
friendly habits with all the great literary characters of his time, they fol- 
lowed him into this institution, and we have the honour of showing their 
names, set like brilliants of the first water, in the ornamental appendages 
of professors of ancient literature, and other such similar accomplishments 
associated with the Academy. As to those admirable discourses which 
he biennially read here, you will, I am sure, have reason to participate 
with me in the satisfaction of knowing that, together with the edition of 
them which is now printing, there will be published Observations on the 
Pictures in Flanders, which Sir Joshua had made during a summer's 
excursion to that country : how fitted to each other, such a man and 
such a work ! Although the time, at present, will not allow us any further 
recognition of the many singular merits of this great man, which do so 
much honour to our institution and to the nation, yet, as above all 
things we are most interested in the becoming, generous feelings of the 
heart, it is impossible to withhold myself here from anticipating the ex- 
ultation with which I shall see the young artists and students coming 
forward in a body, and, with honest ardour, petitioning that a contribution 
from them be accepted of, as part of a fund for defraying the expense of 
a monument for this father and ornament of the Academy: the value of 
such a contribution would be derived from the endearing, exemplary 
circumstance of its coming from them, and not from the sum ; it would 
be beginning life well, and be a kind of pledge and surety for the exer- 
cise of the same feelings through their remaining career. Half-a-crown 
from each would be better than ten pounds. Such honest, generous 
intercourse between master and scholar, the dead and the living, cannot 
be exercised without satisfaction and improvement to our own hearts. I 
speak as if there was a monument to be erected to the memory of Sir 
Joshua Reynolds ; but, to my astonishment, I have heard of no such 
matter as yet. The Academy will surely soon awake and rouse itself. It 
can never suffer that the engravers alone should do themselves and their 

236 barry's lectures. [lect. vi. 

objects of imitation so judiciously recommended by the an- 
cients, yet as the imperfections, deficiencies, or exuber- 
ance, which inevitably accompany all human attempts at per- 
fection, appertain to the frailty of the man, and not to the 
object at which he endeavours, I must insist, let unfairness, 
cavilling, and peevishness say what they may, that excellence 
of any kind has never been attained to upon other principles. 
It is only by thus keeping perfection steadily in view, and 
endeavouring your utmost to possess it, that you can be 
enabled to afford just exertion to the talents which have 
been for this very end committed to your management ; and 
if this exertion does not enable you to take the lead as im- 
provers, it will at least qualify you to keep pace with the 
expectations and demands of the public in the conservation 
of what has been already attained to. And although the 
several peculiarities of temper and information may attach 
you with a particular predilection to some one of the various 
possible combinations of the beautiful, the majestic, the pa- 
thetic, or any other interesting excellence, yet this feature 
of originality will, from your ability, and the general suffi- 
ciency of your education as artists, receive grace and orna- 
ment in all those other more mechanical parts of the art 
with which it should necessarily be accompanied. 

profession honour by erecting a monument to the memory of Woollet ; 
but it ought to be Mr. Strange. If so much is done in the commemora- 
tion of small and subordinate excellence, what ought not the Academy 
to do, in a matter where themselves, the honour of the art, and of the 
country, are so deeply interested ? Originating in the Academy, all the 
artists and dilettanti of the nation would come forward, and this Royal 
Institution (which I trust will live for ever), founded in the metropolis of 
the British empire, would set out in a noble and becoming manner. 
God forbid, that it should ever appear to our successors, in the next ge- 
neration, that we, too, have been so devoted to the arts of mean, selfish 
policy, as to neglect the incumbent duty of transmitting to them an 
honest, exemplary testimony of our recognition of so much excellence! 




on design. 


If the difficulties of your professor's task have always been 
at least equal to the honour of his situation, they must surely 
at present be allowed to preponderate considerably, by his 
having to come after one to whom all sources of knowledge 
were open, who, to a mass of well-digested materials, pos- 
sessed by none but himself, joined an imagination capable of 
illustrating and enlivening the driest subject, and placing it 
in the most various and striking points of view, and the 
force of whose eloquence must have made an indelible im- 
pression on all who ever had the pleasure of hearing it.* 

Such, indeed, is the magnitude of the undertaking, that, 
though I have practised long and studied much, I should 
shrink from it in despair, did I not hope to find you prepared 
almost to anticipate every advice, eager to catch every hint, 
and ready to second my endeavours with earnest and unceas- 
ing diligence. Aided by such a disposition on your part, I 
have no doubt that even my feeble powers may do much ; 
but you must always remember that the responsibility for 
your progress does not lie wholly with me. If you are want- 
ing to yourselves, rule may be multiplied upon rule, and 
precept upon precept in vain, and all the talents of all the 

* Opie here seems to allude to Fuseli, who succeeded Barry in the 
professorship of painting, but again gave up that office when appointed 
keeper of the Academy in 1805. Opie succeeded Fuseli in the professor- 
ship. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. l 

professors that ever lived, far from rendering you any essen- 
tial service, would only tend to cover you with deeper and 
more irrecoverable disgrace. 

What I have to offer will in general be found to correspond 
with the opinions of those who have written on the subject 
before : sometimes, however, I have ventured to leave the 
beaten track ; but I can honestly say, that it has never hap- 
pened through negligence, caprice, or vanity. Truth, not 
novelty, has invariably been my object; and, in order more 
effectually to arrive at this point, I now give notice, that if 
any gentleman, student, or otherwise, will have the goodness 
to set down any doubts or objections he may have as to the 
clearness or soundness of any point I insist on, and commu- 
nicate them to me, I will next year, if not before, endeavour 
to satisfy him by a further explanation, or by retracting my 
opinion if I find it untenable. 

The writers on painting seem in general not less solicitous 
than those on most other arts, of tracing it back to the re- 
motest periods of antiquity; some ascribing it to divine, 
others to human origin, some giving it an antediluvian birth, 
whilst others are content to take it up on this side of the 
Deluge, and warm themselves in settling the pretensions of 
the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, and other early 
nations, to the honour of having been its first parents and 

Having neither leisure nor inclination to enter into dis- 
putes which promise to be as endless as unproductive of any 
thing beneficial either in regard to the theory or practice of 
the art, I shall confine myself to such observations on its 
origin as rise naturally from considering its principles, with- 
out reference to historical evidence of any kind whatever. 

The rudiments of painting appear to me so congenial to 
the mind of man, that they may almost be said to be born 
with it. The art is a language that must exist, in some 
greater or less degree, whenever the human intellect ap- 
proaches a certain, and that by no means an elevated, stand- 
ard. Instead, therefore, of asking where it was, I should be 
more inclined to ask where it was not invented, as the more 
difficult question to solve : for on the slightest consideration 
it cannot but be obvious, that men in the earliest, and every 
period, must (from natural causes) have been impressed with 

LECT. 1.] 



an idea of the elements of art. The shadows of plants, ani- 
mals, and other objects on a plain, the prints of feet in the 
dust or sand, and the accidental resemblance of lines and 
patches of colour to faces and human figures, must have 
given rise to the conception, and pointed out the possibility 
of imitating the appearances of bodies by lines and colours. 
Thus nations, in which society appears to be scarcely beyond 
its infancy, possess the first rudiments of design before they 
are acquainted with those of many other arts more useful, 
and almost necessary to their existence ; their naked bodies 
are covered with punctures of various forms, into which in- 
delible colours of various kinds are infused, — whether for 
ornament or use, to delight their friends, or terrify their 
enemies, is not easy to determine. 

After this first step, the next demand for the art would 
undoubtedly be to communicate and transmit ideas, to pre- 
serve the memory of warlike exploits and remarkable events, 
and to serve the purposes of piety or superstition ; it being 
a much more obvious and natural expedient to form some 
picturesque representation of a person or action, than to 
attempt to give an account of them by means of abstract 
signs and arbitrary characters ; and hence, probably, are de- 
rived the picture-writing of the Mexicans*, and the more 
artful hieroglyphics of the Egyptians. 

But though the arts of design are among the first that 
make their appearance after those absolutely necessary to 
preserve life, they are, perhaps, always the very last that 
reach perfection : with an almost inextinguishable principle 
of vitality they yet require the fervid warmth of the acme 
of civilisation to expand them to their full size, and give 
them to bear fruit of the highest flavour. 

The progress of the arts in every country is the exact and 
exclusive measure of the progress of refinement : they are 
reciprocally the cause and effect of each other ; and hence 
we accordingly find that the most enlightened, the most 
envied, and the most interesting periods in the history of 
mankind are precisely those in which the arts have been 
most esteemed, most cultivated, and have reached their 

* See Aglit/s Antiquities of Mexico; a magnificent work, published by 
Lord Kingsborough, which contains fac-similes of all the most remark- 
able specimens of this Mexican painting. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. t. 

highest points of elevation. To this the bright aeras of 
Alexander the Great and Leo X.* owe their strongest, their 
most amiable, and their most legitimate claims to our respect, 
admiration, and gratitude ; this is their highest and their 
only undivided honour ; and, if not the column itself, it is 
certainly (to borrow a metaphor from a celebrated orator) 
the Corinthian capital of their fame. 

The principles of painting comprehend those of all the 
other arts of design, and, indeed, of every thing in which the 
imagination or the passions are immediately addressed through 
the organs of sight. In this art (the simplest in its means, 
and the most powerful in its effect), by the mere application 
of lines and colours, a flat surface is made to recede or pro- 
ject at the will of the artist ; he fills it with the most agree- 
able appearances of nature, and sets before our eyes the 
images we hold most dear. The empire of the art extends 
over all space and time : it brings into view the heroes, 
sages, and beauties of the earliest periods, the inhabitants of 
the most distant regions, and fixes and perpetuates the forms 
of those of the present day; it presents to us the heroic 
deeds, the remarkable events, and the interesting examples 
of piety, patriotism, and humanity of all ages ; and, accord- 
ing to the nature of the action depicted, it fills us with inno- 
cent pleasure, excites our abhorrence of crimes, moves us to 
pity, or inspires us with elevated sentiments. 

Nor are its powers limited by actual or bodily existence ; 
the world of imagination is all its own. It ascends the 
brightest heaven of invention, and selects and combines at 
pleasure whatever may suit its purpose. All that poets 3^et 
have feigned, or fear conceived, of uncreate or unembodied 
being, is subject to its grasp ; and most truly may it be said 

give to airy nothing 

A local habitation and a name. 

Painting, we are told, consisted, in its infancy, of mere 
outlines, and probably for a long time very little exceeded 
what we now see scrawled in a nursery by children who have 
never been taught to drawf : the next step of the art was to 

* Or rather, more justly, Julius II. — -W. 
f See Fuseli's First Lecture. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



monogram, or the addition of some parts within the contour ; 
from thence it advanced to the monochrom, or paintings of 
one colour ; and to this quickly succeeded the polychrom, or 
the application of various colours, performed by covering the 
different parts of the picture with different hues, much in 
the same way as we now colour maps ; and beyond this the 
art has never advanced among nations of the East, even to 
the present time.* 

But in Greece, happy country ! all causes were combined 
in favour of the progress of the art, as if nature was deter- 
mined to show for once what the human powers, aided by 
every circumstance, were capable of accomplishing. Paint- 
ing was there received with enthusiasm, liberally encou- 
raged, and pursued by a succession of the mightiest geniuses 
the world ever saw, who, with incredible rapidity, completed 
its elements, by the addition of light and shade, to colour, 
and of action to form, and of expression to action, and com- 
position to expression, and grace to composition : every de- 
licacy of execution and mechanical skill crowned the whole, 
and the art, in their hands, became adequate to the repre- 
sentation of all that is grand, beautiful, terrific, or pathetic 
in nature : nor did they stop here ; like our immortal bard, 

k " Each change of many-colour'd life they drew, 
Exhausted worlds and then imagin'd new ; 
Existence saw them spurn her bounded reign, 
And panting Time toil'd after them in vain." 

In short, they not only surpassed all that went before, 
but have equally baffled every attempt at successful rivalry 
since. From them all that exists of true beauty, grace, 
and dignified character in the works of the moderns, not 
only in painting and sculpture, but in every thing that re- 
lates to design, is borrowed. All that is well-proportioned, 
grand, and striking in our architecture, all that is agreeable 
in the forms of our utensils and furniture, and all that is 
tasteful and elegant in the dress of our females, is derived 
immediately from them ; and but for them even beauty in 

* This is not exactly correct : the Indians, the Persians, but more 
especially the Chinese, have made considerable progress in light and 
shade. This was sufficiently proved by the pictures in the late Chinese 
Exhibition, Hyde Park Corner W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

nature itself would perhaps at this time have been undis- 
covered, or so far misunderstood, that we might have pre- 
ferred the artificially crippled form and sickly corpulence of 
a Chinese, or the rank and vulgar redundance of a Flemish 
or Dutch female. 

Nature, as it presents itself to the eye, consists of form, 
colour, and light and shadow : exactly answerable to these, 
the principal branches of painting consist likewise of draw- 
ing, colouring, and chiaroscuro ; and as the eye can take in 
at once but a certain portiou of nature, the art has another 
branch to regulate the quantity and disposition of the parts 
of this portion, called composition. These four constitute 
the practical or physical elements of painting ; and their im- 
mediate purpose is to produce illusion, deception, or the true 
bodily effect of things on the organs of sight. And as by 
the phenomena of form, colour, and light and shade, nature 
makes us acquainted with all her superior and more inter- 
esting qualities, so the corresponding branches of painting, 
through the medium of invention and expression (the soul 
of the art), are made the vehicles of our conceptions of 
sublimity, beauty, grace, mind, passion, and character. 

Invention and expression being purely intellectual branches, 
justly bear in consequence a more elevated rank and degree 
of estimation ; but it must never be forgotten that they can- 
not exist alone ; .perfection in them presupposes perfection 
in the humbler and more mechanic parts, which are the in- 
struments, the language of the art : without these a man is 
no painter ; and however extraordinary, abundant,' brilliant, 
or refined his ideas, they must die with him ; at least he can 
never manifest them to the world by painting. 

To know an art thoroughly, we must know its object, 
which, in regard to painting, is not quite so easy as it appears 
at first ; for though all agree that its purpose is to imitate * 
nature, yet the vast superiority possessed by many works of 
art over others equally challenging to be considered as true 
and faithful representations of nature, shows that some limit- 

* The imitation of nature is scarcely the object of art, but rather its 
means of attaining its object ; for it is to be hoped that few schools of art 
would rest satisfied with the accomplishment of a skilful and illusive imi- 
tation only. The object of art is pleasure, instruction, and improve- 
ment. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



ation and explanation of this very extensive and complicated 
term is necessary to our forming a correct idea of its mean- 
ing in respect to art ; without which it will be vain to hold 
it up as a standard or measure of the various merits of the- 
different works in painting. 

The gross vulgarity and meanness of the works of the 
Dutch ; the pert frivolity and bombast of the French ; the 
Gothic, dry, and tasteless barbarism of the old German, as 
well as the philosophic grandeur of the Roman school, may 
all be equally defended on the ground of their being strong 
and faithful representations of nature of some sort or other. 
In real objects also, the base and the refined, the dross and 
the metal, — the diamond in its rough pebble state, as well as 
when polished, set, and presented in its brightest blaze, — the 
goitre of the Alps, as well as the most perfect beauty, are all 
equally nature ; but who ever thought them equally proper 
subjects for the pencil ? 

In taking a general view, and comparing the productions 
of art, they will be found easily divisible into three distinct 
classes, formed upon three distinct principles or modes of 
seeing nature, and indicative of three distinct ages, or stages 
of refinement, in the progress of painting. First, those of" 
which the authors, agreeing with Dry den that " God never 
made his works for man to mend," and understanding nature 
as strictly meaning the visible appearances of things (any 
alteration of which would at least be unnecessary and imper- 
tinent, if not profane), have, in consequence, confined them- 
selves to the giving, as far as in them lay, an exact copy or 
transcript of their originals, as they happened to present 
themselves, without choice or selection of any kind as to the 
manner of their being. Secondly, those in which the artists,, 
departing a little from this bigotry in taste, have ventured to 
reject what they considered as mean and uninteresting in 
nature, and endeavoured to choose the most perfect models, 
and render them in the best point of view. The third class 
would consist of the works of those who, advanced another 
step in theory, have looked upon nature as meaning the 
general principles of things rather than the things them- 
selves, who have made the imitation of real objects give way 
to the imitation of an idea of them in their utmost perfection, 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

and by whom we find them represented not as they actually 
are, but as they ought to be. 

This last stage of refinement, to which no modern has yet 
completely arrived, has been called the ideal, the beautiful, 
or the sublime style of art. It founds its pretensions to N 
superiority on the very superior powers required to excel in 
it, and on the infinitely greater effect, both as to pleasure 
and improvement, which it is calculated to produce on the 
mind of the spectator ; and hence the pure, simple, energetic, 
and consistent principle on which it rests is indubitably to 
be considered as the true and real interpretation of the 
term nature, always to be kept in view, not only by all who 
would excel in painting, but by all who wish to attain the 
highest style in any of the imitative arts. 

Many painters and critics, from observing the difficulty of 
settling the proper meaning of the term nature, have thought 
fit to substitute beauty in its stead, as the immediate object 
of the great style of art. But beauty being a word to the 
full as indefinite, if not as complex, as the word nature, we 
shall not be surprised" to find that many painters of no mean 
abilities have been led into very fatal mistakes from erroneous 
and inadequate conceptions of its meaning : we shall not be 
surprised at the namby-pamby style of many of the works of 
Albani ; we can hence account for the maimer and affectation 
of Guido, who, understanding the term in too confined a 
sense, thought he was of course to paint, on every occasion, 
the handsomest woman possible ; and taking, accordingly, in 
his opinion, the most beautiful antique statue for his model, 
he constantly repeated in his works the same face, without 
variation of expression or character, whatever was the sub- 
ject, situation, or action, represented : whether a Venus or a 
Milkmaid, the Assumption of the Virgin, the Death of Cleo- 
patra, or Judith cutting off the Head of Holofernes. This 
principle has also evidently been the great stumbling-block 
of the whole French school, to which it owes the larger 
share of its absurdity and insipidity, its consumptive languor, 
and its coquettish affectation.* 

* This applies rather to the school of Vien, Vincent and David, and 
their followers, than to the French school itself. The affected antique 
manner, however, which so strongly characterised the French school 
during the Revolution, has been happily superseded by a very superior 

LECT. I.] 



I will not undertake the perilous task of defining the word 
beauty; but I have no hesitation in asserting, that when 
beauty is said to be the proper end of art, it must not be 
understood as confining the choice to one set of objects, or as 
breaking down the boundaries and destroying the natural 
classes, orders, and divisions of things (which cannot be too 
carefully kept entire and distinct) ; but as meaning the per- 
fection of each subject in its kind, in regard to form, colour, 
and all its other associated and consistent attributes. In this 
qualified and, I will venture to say, proper acceptation of the 
word in regard to art, it may be applied to nearly all things 
most excellent in their different ways. Thus we have various 
modes of beauty in the statues of the Venus, the Juno, the 
jNiobe, the Antinous, and the Apollo; — and thus we may 
speak, without exciting a confusion of ideas, of a beautiful 
peasant, as well as of a beautiful princess, of a beautiful 
child, or a beautiful old man ; of a beautiful cottage, a beau- 
tiful church, a beautiful palace, or even of a beautiful ruin. 

The discovery or conception of this great and perfect idea 
of things, of nature in its purest and most essential form, 
unimpaired by disease, unmutilated by accident, and unso- 
phisticated by local habits and temporary fashions, and the 
exemplification of it in practice, by getting above individual 
imitation, rising from the species to the genus, and uniting, 
in every subject, all the perfection of which it is capable in 
its kind, is the highest and ultimate exertion of human 
genius. — Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further — every 
step in every direction from this pole of truth is alike retro- 
grade — for, to generalise beyond the boundaries of cha- 
racter, to compose figures of no specific age, sex, or destination, 
with no predominant quality or particular end to be an- 
swered in their construction, is to violate propriety, destroy 
interest, and lose the very essence of beauty in contemptible 
nothingness and insipidity. 

Conceptions of beauty or perfection take place involun- 
tarily in the mind, through the medium of that wonderful 
and powerful principle, the association of ideas : but they 
will be very far from distinct or correct, unless we also em- 
ploy much study of the laws of nature, investigate closely her 

taste. The present school of France leaves nothing to be desired in the 
mechanical department of the art. — W. 

R 3 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

methods of attaining her purposes, observe accurately her 
rules of proportion, and how they are varied in every depart- 
ment of character, develope the connexion of mind with 
matter, trace their reciprocal effects on each other, and learn, 
in all cases, to distinguish the harmonious, consistent, and 
-energetic, from the absurd, superfluous, and inefficient com- 
binations of parts and principles. 

As the most fashionable and approved metaphysicians of 
the present day seem inclined to deny the existence of general 
ideas, I shall not contend for the propriety of applying that 
term to ideas formed on the principles I have been mention- 
ing ; but, under whatever denomination they may be classed, 
it cannot be denied that they are the true and genuine object 
of the highest style of painting. Poetry, though unlimited 
in its field of description, and omnipotent as the vehicle of 
relation and sentiment, is capable of giving but faint sketches 
of form, colour, and whatsoever else is more immediately 
addressed to the sight ; and the drama, however impassioned 
,and interesting, can only exhibit form and motion as they 
actually exist : but the utmost conceivable perfection of form, 
of majesty of character, and of graceful and energetic action, 
have no physical existence ; they are born, bred, and reside 
in the human imagination only, never to be drawn from 
thence but by the hand of the consummate artist, working 
on the sublimest principles of his art. Here it may be 
necessary to notice that the term ideal, like those of nature 
and beauty, has probably been the source of very great and 
grievous errors. Instances have occurred of some, who have 
even been so absurd as to think colouring, chiaroscuro, and 
all that contributes to illusion in painting, as beneath their 
attention ; who, because they have heard that nature might 
be improved upon in some particulars, have fondly imagined 
that their compositions approached the heroic and poetical in 
proportion as they receded from nature and became muddy, 
tame, and monotonous in the effect; forgetting that the ideal 
has reference to the forms, character, choice, and congruity 
only of things, and not at all to the rendering the appearance, 
of them witli truth, vivacity, and energy to the eye ; in which 
art is so far from being capable of excelling nature, that, with 
her best efforts, she must ever remain at an immeasurable 
distance behind. 

LECT. I.] 



How colouring and effect may and ought to be managed, 
to enliven form and invigorate sentiment and expression, I 
can readily comprehend and, I hope, demonstrate ; but 
wherein these different classes of excellence are incompatible 
with each other I could never conceive : nor will the barren 
coldness of David, the brick-dust of the learned Poussin, nor 
even the dryness of Raphael himself, ever lead me to believe- 
that the flesh of heroes is less like flesh than that of other 
men ; or that the surest way to strike the imagination, and 
interest the feelings, is to fatigue, perplex, and disgust the 
organ through which the impression is made on the mind. 

Let it, therefore, be always understood, that the end of 
painting, in its highest style, is twofold ; first, the giving 
effect, illusion, or the true appearance of objects to the eye ; 
and, secondly, the combination of this with the ideal, or the 
conception of them in their utmost perfection, and under 
such an arrangement as is calculated to make the greatest 
possible impression on the spectator. 

With such purposes in view, consisting of such a multi- 
plicity of parts, and requiring such an uncommon assemblage 
of powers, mechanical and mental, of hand, of eye, of know- 
ledge, of judgment, of imagination, and of indefatigable 
perseverance in study and practice to enable a man to per- 
form any one part with tolerable success, it can be no wonder 
that the art has not as yet, in modern times at least, reached 
the desired perfection ; nor ought we to be surprised to find 
even the most celebrated masters materially defective in 
some one or more of its branches, — those who possessed 
invention having been frequently deficient in execution ; 
those who studied colouring having often neglected drawing; 
and those who attended to form and character, having been 
too apt to disregard composition, and the proper management 
of light and shadow. The whole together, indeed, seems 
almost too great for the grasp of human powers, unless ex- 
cited, expanded, and invigorated by such enthusiastic and 
continued encouragement as that which exclusively marks 
the bright era of Grecian taste. 

Impressed as I am at the present moment with a full con- 
viction of the difficulties attendant on the practice of paint- 
ing, I cannot but feel it also my duty to caution every one 
who hears me against entering into it from improper motives, 

H 4 

248 opie's lectures. [lect. i. 

and with inadequate views of the subject; as they will 
thereby only run a risk of entailing misery and disgrace on 
themselves and their connexions during the rest of their 
lives. Should any student, therefore, happen to be present 
who has taken up the art on the supposition of finding it an 
easy and amusing employment — any one who has been sent 
into the Academy by his friends, on the idea that he may 
cheaply acquire an honourable and profitable profession — 
any one who has mistaken a petty kind of imitative, monkey- 
talent for genius — any one w r ho hopes by it to get rid of 
what he thinks a more vulgar or disagreeable situation, to 
escape confinement at the counter or the desk — any one 
urged merely by vanity or interest, or, in short, impelled by 
any consideration but a real and unconquerable passion for 
excellence — let him drop it at once, and avoid these walls, 
and every thing connected with them, as he would the pesti- 
lence ; for if he have not this unquenchable liking, in addition 
to all the requisites above enumerated, he may pine in indi- 
gence, or skulk through life as a hackney likeness-taker, a 
copier, a drawing-master, or pattern-drawer to young ladies, 
or he may turn picture-cleaner, and help Time to destroy 
excellencies which he cannot rival — but he must never hope 
to be, in the proper sense of the word, a painter. 

Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to ex- 
cellence, and few there be that find it. True as this un- 
doubtedly is in all cases, in no instance will it be found so 
applicable as the present ; for in no profession will the 
student have so many difficulties to encounter — in no pro- 
fession so many sacrifices to make — in no profession will he 
have to labour so hard, and study so intensely — and in no 
profession is the reward of his talents so precarious and 
uncertain, — as is lamentably proved by every day's expe- 
rience, and by every page of history. 

Let me not be told that by such assertions I am raising 
obstacles and throwing obstructions in the paths of men of 
genius, for to such obstacles act as a stimulus ; what quenches 
others gives them fire ; and I am confident a knowledge of 
the truth will in the end equally benefit the art and the artist. 
Should any one be discouraged by it, I will say to him, I 
have rendered you an essential service ; you will soon find 
some other situation better suited to your talents. But to 

LECT. I.] 



those who can, undismayed, look all the difficulties in the 
face ; who have made up their minds to conquer ; who are 
ready to sacrifice their time, their ease, their pleasure, their 
profit, and devote themselves, soul and body, to the art, — 
in short, who cannot be restrained from the pursuit of it ; 
to those I will say, You alone are worthy, you alone are 
likely to succeed ; you give the strongest proofs that can be 
obtained of possessing all the necessary requisites, and there 
is every probability that you will do honour to your art, your 
country, and yourselves ; for nothing is denied to persevering 
and well-directed industry. 

I wish we could see — I wish we could ever hope to see — 
the time when all external obstacles to the progress of art 
were removed ; but as to the internal difficulties, however 
they may fret us, I am afraid we must, and ought to, consider 
them as our very best friends. They put me in mind of an 
anecdote of two highwaymen, which, as it is short, I shall 
take the liberty of introducing : — " Two highwaymen (says 
a certain author) passing once by a gibbet, one of them, with 
an ill-boding sign, exclaimed, \ What a fine profession ours 
would be, if there were no gibbets ! 9 6 O, you blockhead,' 
says the other, ' how much you are mistaken ! — Gibbets are 
the making of us ; for if there had been no gibbets, every 
one would be a highwayman.' " Just so it is in art : diffi- 
culties serve to keep out unqualified and unworthy compe- 
titors ; if there were no difficulties, every one would be a 

Of the several branches or divisions of 'the art, separately 
considered, design or drawing is, undoubtedly, the most impor- 
tant ; for on drawing, not only form, but action, expression, 
character, beauty, grace, and greatness chiefly depend. 
Colour represents nothing, and lights and shadows have na 
meaning till they are circumscribed by form. Drawing is, 
therefore, evidently the foundation and first element of the 
art, without which all the others, ideal or practical, are not 
merely useless, but nonentities. 

Hence it is clear that drawing must have existed before 
any other branch of painting, and that drawing must still 
have precedence in the order of acquirement ; and hence we 
can be at no loss to account for the enthusiasm with which it 
has been spoken of, nor for the zeal with which the study of 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

it has been enforced by all teachers of the art. " He," says 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, "that is capable of delineating fine 
forms, even if he can do nothing more, is a great artist." 
And Annibale Carracci was wont to say to his scholars, 
" First make a good outline, and then (whatever you do in 
the middle) it must be a good picture." 

Many more expressions to the same effect, and of equal 
authority, might be quoted, but we have yet another proof, 
infinitely superior to the opinion of any individual, however 
exalted, of the supreme necessity and comprehensive utility 
of drawing ; for in all the various schools and academies 
that have been instituted, in every place and country in 
which painting has obtained a local habitation, what has been 
invariably their object ? Has it not been design alone ? 
How little, if any, has been the attention bestowed on other 
branches of the art. If you ask them, " What is the first 
requisite in a painter," will they not say, Drawing ? " What 
the second?" Drawing. "What the third?" Drawing. They 
tell you, indeed, to acquire colouring, chiaroscuro, and compo- 
sition, if you can; but they insist on your becoming 
draughtsmen. After this, to doubt the importance of draw- 
ing would be as absurd and arrogant as to doubt whether 
the institution of academies have in any degree contributed 
to the advancement of painting.* 

Were I to give an opinion on the prevailing practice of 
academies, 1 should say, not that too much attention has 
been bestowed on drawing, but that certainly too little has 
been paid to other branches of the art. A man who has 
obtained a considerable proficiency in one part, will not like 
to become a child in another ; he will rather pretend to 
despise and neglect, than be thought incapable, or take the 
pains necessary, to conquer it ; and therefore it is, that, 
though the student must necessarily commence with draw- 

* This has been, and may be safely doubted. Academies were origi- 
nally founded, not for the advancement but for the vpholding or preserva- 
tion of painting. The great age of art was that of family tuition, 
academies were founded in its decline, nor have any artists appeared 
during the academic ages to be compared with the great names of former 
times. The great effect of academies has been to elevate the standard of 
mediocrity, and greatly to multiply the number of artists; a result partly 
dependent on the too material or technical nature of an academic educa- 
tion.— W 

LECT. I.] 



ing, he should also very soon begin to attempt chiaroscuro, 
colouring, and composition, and thus carry on the whole to- 
gether, if he wishes to become a complete artist. 

Good drawing, in the most confined acceptation of the 
term, demands at least two qualities, correctness and spirit ; 
that is, the forms and quantities should be just, and ren- 
dered with precision and facility, which, simple as it may 
appear, not only requires an accurate eye and a skilful 
hand, — the result of incessant practice, — but these must 
also be accompanied by a clear understanding of the con- 
struction and mechanism of the subject attempted, for (as 
invariable experience proves,) he that is unacquainted with 
the shapes and structure of the bones and joints which sup- 
port and govern the animal frame, and knows not how the 
muscles (the moving powers,) are arranged, fixed, and con- 
nected, and their modes of action, can make little or nothing 
of the continually varying appearance of them through their 
integuments, and the most successful endeavour at repre- 
senting them would necessarily include as many blunders, 
as the translation of a book of science by a person who un- 
derstood the language only, and was totally ignorant of the 
subject of it. 

We cannot, as I have heard a great man express himself 
on another occasion, see at sight. A tolerably correct un- 
derstanding of the construction and leading principles of an 
object, is requisite even to the seeing it properly ; and the 
weight of the obligation on a painter to study anatomy will 
appear to increase in a tenfold ratio, when we likewise take 
into the consideration, how seldom it happens that nothing 
more is required of him than to represent his objects standing 
still, or lying in a motionless or languid position before him ; 
for if, in such cases, the eye alone be insufficient to enable him 
to render them correctly, how much more so must it prove, in 
regard to figures enlivened by sentiment, or agitated by con- 
tending passions, and thrown into sadden, animated, and mo- 
mentary action, in which a living model (if capable of being 
placed at all) can hold but for an instant, and must quickly 
sink into quiescent torpidity! Here it is certain, that, if the 
artist possess not a thorough knowledge of the figure, if he 
understand not correctly the arrangement and play of all its 
-different parts, their various and mutual dependencies on 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

each other, and the appearances they must naturally assume 
in every given position, — if, at the same time, he be not 
equally familiar with the rules of proportion, ponderation, 
and the just division and balance of motion in every joint 
and limb, he will find it impossible to " catch the Cynthia of 
the minute his labour will be vain ; his living model, far 
from proving an useful pattern, will rather tend to lead him 
astray, and his (under such circumstances) presumptuous 
attempt at drawing must inevitably be deficient in pre- 
cision, correctness, energy, and grace. 

The uses of anatomical knowledge being so obvious, I 
shall only remark, in addition, that as it has generally been 
too much neglected, so it has sometimes also been pursued 
too far. There are those who have suffered it to usurp the 
first place, and considered it as the end, instead of the 
means. Let the student be on his guard against this mis- 
take ; for, though by inflating the muscles, ploughing up the 
interstices between them in every direction, pushing the 
bones through the skin, or flaying his figures completely, 
he may possibly show himself an able anatomist, he will in- 
fallibly prove himself a bad painter. Let him remember 
that the bones and muscles are always covered by their 
integuments, and that they are more or less visible, square 
or round, soft or firm, divided or united into masses, accord- 
ing to the age, sex, occupation, situation, circumstances, and 
character of the subject, the expression of which with force, 
precision, and fidelity, is always to be regarded as the prin- 
cipal end of drawing. 

The study of anatomy, as I have before hinted, must 
necessarily be accompanied by that of proportion and sym- 
metry ; for what will the most intimate knowledge of the 
different parts of the human body, and their several func- 
tions, avail us, if we are, at the same time, ignorant of their 
relative lengths, sizes, and thickness in regard to each other 
and to the whole together, on which, and on the regula- 
tion of the precise degrees of meagreness, muscularity, soft- 
ness, firmness, elasticity, rigidity, refinement or vulgarity, 
which must equally pervade every part of each figure, all 
unity, force and discrimination of character immediately de- 

General notions of proportion may undoubtedly be ac- 

LECT. I.] 



quired with the greatest certainty and facility by a careful 
and persevering study of the antique; but they can be 
matured and completed only by referring to nature, the 
fountain-head or mine, from whence all those surprising, and 
since that time incomprehensible, treasures of excellence 
must have been derived. 

In nature, the elements and leading features of the animal 
economy are few ; and the astonishing variety by which it 
is distinguished appears to consist chiefly in the forms, 
quantities, and relative proportions of the parts. Every 
class of animals, and every individual of every class, is 
variously endowed with appropriate degrees of bulk, strength, 
and elasticity of body, and of energy, sagacity, and com- 
prehension of mind, according to its destination ; and every 
combination of these, or other qualities, is inseparably con- 
nected with a particular set of proportions and configu- 
ration of parts, at once descriptive of the qualities united, 
and conducive to the end proposed by their union. Thus 
the combined qualities, and the combined proportions, are 
always reciprocally the exponents of each other. Hence, by 
viewing the form only of an animal, we are enabled to pre- 
dict its qualities, whether it be strong or subtle, active or 
slothful, courageous or timid ; and hence it also follows, that 
the true expression of character in painting depends on the 
proper conformation and adjustment of the parts to the 
whole and to each other, according to the unalterable and 
universally established laws of nature. 

Of these laws, or latent principles of form, now so little 
understood, the ancients, by long study and laborious ex- 
periment, made themselves completely masters. They saw what 
particular proportions marked the physical powers ; they 
understood what denoted the moral ; they observed how the 
situation and shape of the head varied with the increase or 
decrease of intellectual vigour and comprehension, and, by 
skilfully applying their knowledge to practice, by judiciously 
exaggerating (in some cases) the peculiar distinctions of 
man, compared with the inferior classes of animals, by suit- 
ing the proportions to the qualities intended to be expressed, 
and by avoiding the mixture of any thing incongruous or 
unnecessary, they produced those concentrated, dephlegmated, 
and highly rectified personifications of strength, activity, 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IJ 

beauty, majesty, wisdom, and enthusiasm, which astonish and 
enchant us under the names of the Farnese Hercules, the 
Venus, the Fighting Gladiator, the Jupiter, and the Apollo. 

The works of the ancients can never be studied too much, 
but they may easily be studied improperly : the prime ob- 
ject which ought always to be kept in view, as the only 
means by which we can ever hope to rival them, is the re- 
discovery, in its fullest extent, of the principle on which 
they were formed, which none of the moderns have yet 
comprehended, nor probably attempted, scarcely suspecting 
its existence : the best of them have, in general, contented 
themselves with selecting some favourite figure, and using it 
on all occasions, indiscriminately, as a rule of proportion, 
absurdly forgetting that, if it was exactly proper in any 
one instance, it must necessarily be more or less improper in 
all others. Thus, in escaping the meanness and vulgarity of 
common nature, they confounded all distinction of charac- 
ter, and became incurable mannerists, insipid or extrava- 
gant, according to their choice of a model. 

Nor is this the only evil to be dreaded and guarded against 
in the imitation of the antique statues: for though, as 
Rubens justly observes, we can never consider them too 
attentively, or study them too closely ; though in order to 
attain perfection in painting it is necessary to understand 
them, nay, to be so thoroughly possessed of this knowledge 
that it may diffuse itself everywhere (for in this degenerate 
age we can produce nothing like them), yet it is no less 
certain that ignorant painters and beginners, who make no 
distinction betwixt the figure and the stone, the form and 
the material of which it is composed, often learn from them 
somewhat that is stiff, crude, liney, and harsh in respect to 
anatomy ; by which, while they take themselves to be good 
proficients, they do but disgrace nature instead of ennobling 
her, losing all her warmth and feeling, and giving us marble 
tinged with various colours in the place of flesh. In sculp- 
ture, it must be remembered that, without any fault in the 
work or the workman, many outlines and shadows appear 
hard, dense, and opaque, which in nature are softened and 
harmonised by the colour and transparency of the flesh, 
skin, and cartilages, and that the lights also are extremely 
different from the natural, the hardness and polish of the 

LECT. I.] 



material giving them a lustre and sharpness, which dazzles 
the eye, and raises the surface beyond the proper pitch. 

The truth of these observations is too obvious to need a 
comment ; but the whole force of them can hardly be felt 
by those who have not lately had an opportunity of viewing 
the works of the French school, in which, at present, the 
mischievous effects of an inordinate rage for copying the 
antique are too notorious for any thing but the blindest 
prejudice to overlook or tolerate. It seems, indeed, to be 
the fate of this school to be ever in extremes. Formerly 
they were tawdry coxcombs ; now they affect to be the 
plainest Quakers in art : formerly they absurdly endea- 
voured to invest sculpture in all the rich ornaments of paint- 
ing ; now they are for shearing painting of her own appro- 
priate beams, and reducing her to the hard and dry monotony 
of sculpture : formerly their figures were obscured by 
splendid colours, buried under huge masses of gorgeous 
draperies, flying in all directions, and lost amid columns, 
arcades, and all kinds of pompous and misplaced magnifi- 
cence ; now they glue their draperies to the figure, paste the 
hair to the head in all the lumpish opacity of coloured plaster ; 
nail their figures to a hard unbroken ground, and, avoiding 
everything like effect and picturesque composition, often 
place them in a tedious row from end to end of the picture, 
as nearly like an antique bas-relief as possible. In short, it 
seems to be the principal aim of a French artist to rival 
Medusa's head, and turn everything into stone ; and so far 
it must be confessed, to their credit, that, however they may 
have failed to equal the beauties of the antique, they have 
certainly copied, nay even improved on, its defects with 
uncommon success. 

When I say the defects of the antique, I mean in regard 
to painting only, for in sculpture I consider them as beau- 
ties. The ancients understood exactly what each art could, 
and what it could not perform, and wisely confined them- 
selves, in the latter art, to the display of elegance and pre- 
cision of form, just discrimination of character, and forcible 
expression of passion; but, in painting, I have no doubt 
that these were combined with many other excellencies: — 
for to suppose, as the French evidently do, that they followed 
precisely the same practice, that they did not attempt to give 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

more lightness, fulness, richness, and freedom to their hair 
and draperies ; that they forbore to avail themselves of the 
powers of colour, and the artifices of contrast, to give depth, 
distance, and effect to their compositions, which however 
impracticable, and therefore absurd, in sculpture, are com- 
pletely within the province, and form some of the most 
essential and appropriate beauties of f the sister art, — to sup- 
pose this, is to suppose them devoid of taste, and totally 
ignorant of the nature, extent, and powers of the art of 

" There is," says Dryden, " no short cut or royal road to 
the sciences." This remark will equally apply to drawing, 
which must be acquired by assiduous study and practice, 
and cannot be bought for money, nor taught by precept 
merely. I have pointed out some of the leading requisites 
and difficulties, and shown, in part, the way to eminence ; 
but on your own energies you must at last rely for the at- 
tainment of it. I shall therefore finish my observations on 
this head, by repeating what cannot be too often repeated, 
too strongly impressed on your minds, nor too firmly fixed 
in your memory, — that drawing is the only sure and stable 
foundation of the art, the only step by which you can ascend 
into the highest seats in the temple of Fame. By other 
excellencies you may, for a while, charm the senses, but 
drawing is almost the only weapon by which you can reach 
the understanding and touch the heart ; it is the only in- 
strument by which you can demonstrate elegance and beauty, 
develope character, and unlock the hidden recesses of pas- 
sion. All other acquirements derive from it irresistible 
force and beauty ; but unsupported and unassisted by cor- 
rect, masterly, and scientific drawing, they can at best reach 
but a second-rate and temporary celebrity : when the tide of 
taste rises, and the winds of criticism bluster and beat upon 
it, the showy but ill-founded edifice must quickly be swept 
away, or swallowed up and forgotten for ever. 

These remarks are the more necessary, as it must be con- 
fessed that the strength of the English painters never lay so 
much as it ought in design ; and now, perhaps, more than 
ever, they seem devoted to the charms of colour and effect, 
and captivated by the mere penmanship of the art, the empty 
legerdemain of pencil. 

LECT. I.] 



But if the English artist runs counter, in this instance, to 
the established character of his country, and prefers the su- 
perficial to the solid attainments in art, has he not many ex- 
cuses ? may it not, in a great measure, be attributed to the 
general frivolity and meanness of the subjects he is called 
upon to treat ? to the inordinate rage for portrait painting 
(a more respectable kind of caricature), by which he is con- 
demned for ever to study and copy the wretched defects, 
and conform to the still more wretched prejudices, of every 
tasteless and ignorant individual, however in form, features, 
and mind utterly hostile to all ideas of character, expression, 
and sentiment ? And may it not, in part, be attributed to 
the necessity he is under of painting always with reference 
to the Exhibition ? * In a crowd, he that talks loudest, not 
he that talks best, is surest of commanding attention ; and in 
an exhibition, he that does not attract the eye, does nothing. 
But, however plausible these excuses, it becomes the true 
painter to consider, that they will avail nothing before the 
tribunal of the world and posterity. Keeping the true end 
of art in view, he must rise superior to the prejudices, dis- 
regard the applause, and contemn the censure of corrupt 
and incompetent judges; far from aiming at being fashion- 
able, it must be his object to reform, and not to flatter, — to 
teach, and not to please, — if he aspires, like Zeuxisf, to 
paint for eternity. 

* An infinitely greater mischief to art than the innocent "rage for 
portrait painting," whether inordinate or not. Both Opie and liarry 
appear to have encouraged an inconsiderate antipathy to this useful and 
agreeable department of painting. Portraiture itself cannot possibly 
operate injuriously on art; it is the painter's best school, if he would but 
pay more attention to the individuality of his subject, and put some 
restraint upon the too common propensity for sacrificing individual cha- 
racter to certain conventional notions of effect. It is owing to this sub- 
jective treatment of portraits that they become " caricatures : " if more 
objectively treated they would not only be more instructive to the painter, 
but better pictures, and better ministers to the affections to which they 
owe their existence. Who can blame a man for preferring the picture of 
a parent, his wife, or child, to the vague design of some fanciful painter, 
of which he can probably neither comprehend the subject, nor admire the 
treatment ! to say nothing of the relative expense of the works — W. 

t See Fuseli's First Lecture, where this allusion is explained. — \V. 



opie's lectures. 

[lect. ]. 

In taking a retrospective view of the progress of the art in 
modern times, it will be seen that the two first schools, both 
in rank and time, made Design, and its dependent excellen- 
cies, their chief objects of study ; which was no more than 
might have been expected, as Design (I have already shown) 
must necessarily be attended to, in some degree, antecedently 
to any other branch of the art. But the artists of these 
schools had another, and a much more powerful, motive to 
urge them to the almost exclusive cultivation of this prin- 
cipal root and stem of painting : they had the exquisite re- 
mains of ancient sculpture to contemplate ; these began from 
a very early period to attract general admiration ; from these 
the first germs of correct taste were scattered among the 
people of Italy ; by these their artists had their eyes first 
opened, and their minds first impregnated with ideas of true 
beauty; by these they first acquired elevated and just con- 
ceptions of nature, and were taught to look beyond the imita- 
tion of individual models for perfection of form, for graceful 
action, and for purity and grandeur of character. 

But though both these schools made Design a primary 
object, they differed essentially in regard to style, and in 
the manner of its application. Severity, energy and lofti- 
ness bordering on extravagance, characterise the principal 
works of the Florentines. Their style of design approaches 
the gigantic ; it abounds with abrupt transitions and violent 
contrasts, and affects an expression of strength and fierce- 
ness, by which grace is but too often excluded and propriety 
violated. Taught by the ancients to soar above common 
nature, they often mistook what was only uncommon and 
far-fetched for the great and the extraordinary, and failed 
to interest, from too ardent a desire to surprise. 

To their credit, however, it must be remembered, that 
modern painting owes them infinite obligation ; they first 
burst the trammels of dryness, meagreness, hardness, and 
servile imitation ; first introduced the free, bold, and flowing 
outline ; gave the first examples of dignified character, ener- 
getic action, and concentrated expression ; invented chiaro- 
scuro and grouping ; and often imparted to their works a 
majesty unrivalled by any subsequent productions of art. 
On the whole, satisfied with commanding admiration, the 

LECT. I.] 



Tuscan artists may be said to have considered the task of 
pleasing as beneath their notice. 

The school of Florence, independent of its merits, has an 
indisputable title to the veneration of all lovers of the arts, 
as the first in Italy which cultivated them. Painting, which 
had languished and become nearly extinct with the Roman 
empire, was revived by Giovanni Cimabue*, born of a 
noble family at Florence, about the year 1240. His works, 
as may easily be imagined, were in a very ordinary, not to say, 
wretched style ; but if they had not excited the admiration, 
and received the applause, of his countrymen, Florence, in all 
probability, would never have been honoured with such a 
painter as Michelangelo Buonarroti. 

It would be as tedious as useless to recount the stammer- 
ing and babbling of the art in its infant state. I shall, there- 
fore, pass on to about 150 years after the death of Cimabue, 
when the drawing of an enlarged and liberal style of design 
began to appear at Florence ; when Massaccio, whose works 
are still in existence, produced figures which Raphael, in 
the zenith of his reputation, did not disdain to transplant 
into some of his most celebrated compositions ; when the 
intricacies and difficulties of fore-shortening began in some 
measure to be understood and subdued ; when colouring and 
composition were attempted by Andrea Verocchio, Andrea 
Mantegna, and Luca Signorelli of Cortona ; and when, in 
short, ail circumstances seemed to concur to usher in, with 
becoming splendour, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the first lu- 
minaries of modern art, and one of the most extraordinary 
of men. 

If it be true that " one science only will one genius fit," 
what shall we say to the man, who, master of all mental and 
all bodily perfections, equally excelled in painting, poetry, 
sculpture, architecture, chemistry, anatomy, mathematics, 
and philosophy ; who renders credible all that has been re- 
lated of the admirable Crichton, who attempted everything 
and succeeded in every attempt ; who, sailing round the 

* This is an opinion which at one time was very general, but advanced 
experience in the history of art has shown it to be erroneous : painting 
was never extinct, and its revival was very gradual. The student will 
find this subject treated at some length in the editor's Epochs of Paint - 
ing, already referred to. — W. 

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[lect. I. 

world of art and science, touched at every port, and brought 
home something of value from each ? 

This was the glory of Leonardo, and this was also his 
weakness ; for, equally in love with grandeur and littleness, 
beauty and deformity, character and caricature, he bestowed 
his attention on them P all by turns, and soared or dived, as 
the caprice of the moment directed. His genius, however, 
gave the death-blow to flatness and insipidity, by the inven- 
tion of that deep tone of colour, strength of shadow, and bold 
rilievo, which, afterwards carried to perfection, enchants us 
in the dreams of Correggio, and electrifies us in the mys- 
terious visions of Rembrandt. 

Less profoundly learned in design, less lofty and compre- 
hensive in conception, than his great rival and contemporary 
Michelangelo, his celebrated cartoon of the Horsemen con- 
tending for a Standard is, nevertheless, one of the noblest 
inventions in the whole circle of modern art*; it evinces a 
singular boldness and fertility of imagination, by the display 
of every attitude of the human body on horseback, in the 
various actions of striking, pulling, thrusting, warding and 
evading a blow, combined with a felicity and energy at once 
picturesque, interesting, and surprising : the whole is animated, 
every part is in motion, and we witness, by turns, the col- 
lected coolness of true courage, the devouring malevolence 
of rage, the contending emotions of hope and fear, the exul- 
tation of assured victory, and the despairing gasp of in- 
evitable death. The horses, conceived with the fire of a true 
poet, and executed with the science of an anatomist, rear and 
plunge into the battle with a fury equal to that of their riders: 
in short, this composition was altogether unexampled at the 
time, and unrivalled for ages after, till it suggested to Ru- 
bens the first hint for those magnificent groups of horses 
and figures, in his battles of the Amazons, and of Constantino 
andMaxentius ; and for those astonishing masses of men and 
animals in commotion, his huntings of the lion, the tiger, the 
crocodile and the hippopotamus. 

There is no possibility of calculating what such a man as 
Leonardo da Yinci may have lost by his versatility and want 
of perseverance. With such comprehension, and such in- 
vention, he might, doubtless, instead of furnishing hints, and 
* See note to Barry's Third Lecture. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



pointing out the promised land to others, have taken posses- 
sion of it himself, and carried the principles of chiaroscuro 
and grouping to perfection. As it is, his works are, compa- 
ratively, of little value, the greater part of them (the cele- 
brated Last Supper at Milan included) having been left in 
an imperfect state. 

Of numerous volumes written by him on arts and science, 
one only, a treatise on painting, is at present in circulation ; 
and by this alone, were there no other proofs, might the ex- 
traordinary extent of his capacity, and the eagerness of his 
research, be justly estimated; for though confused and un- 
connected, in some parts obscure, and in others trifling, it is, 
nevertheless, one of the best elementary works on the art 

Whatever escaped the sagacity, or lay beyond the powers 
of Leonardo da Yinci, was accomplished by his mighty com- 
petitor Michelangelo Buonarroti, the glory of the Florentine 
school; who elevated design to a pitch of excellence, from 
which it has ever since been declining. The genius of this 
great man operated an entire change of principle in modern 
art, to the little and meagre he gave grandeur and ampli- 
tude ; to the confused and uninteresting he gave simplicity 
and effect ; and on the feeble and unmeaning he stamped 
energy and character. Raphael, his greatest contemporary 
and rival, thanked God for having been born in an age which 
boasted of such a man ; and Reynolds, the greatest painter 
and critic of our times, prides himself on the capability of 
feeling his excellence, and declares, that the slightest of his 
perfections ought to confer glory and distinction enough to 
satisfy an ambitious man. 

Michelangelo, as we are informed by Ascanio Condivi *, 
having observed the great deficiency of Albert Durer's rules 
for drawing, resolved to write a complete treatise on the 
anatomy and proportions of the human figure, and to com- 
pose a theory founded on the knowledge and experience 
acquired by his long practice, for the benefit of all f uture 

That this resolution was never carried into effect must 
ever be regretted, as an incalculable and irreparable loss to 

* In the Vita di Michelangelo Buonarroti, Rome 1553, and Florence 
1746.— W. 

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the arts ; for certainly never man, before or since (at least in 
modern times), was so perfectly qualified for the task. Ana- 
tomy, it is true, has, in a medical and physiological point of 
view, been subsequently much advanced'; but the writers on 
the subject have, in general, been little able or solicitous to 
speak of the human figure in regard to proportion, beauty, 
character, action, and attitude, — branches of the science the 
most interesting to an artist, the most difficult to investigate, 
and which, we may naturally conclude, would have occupied 
the larger share of a work composed by a professed painter. 

Destitute of the assistance of this intended treatise, the 
knowledge of his principles can now be gleaned only by the 
accurate observation and diligent comparison of his works 
with those of others ; for, in this particular, the accounts of 
his life, though copious enough in some respects, can help 
us but little. One circumstance, however, we learn from 
thqrn, which I would wish to press forcibly on the attention 
of all my hearers, that he was indefatigable in his practice, 
and in the study both of nature and the works of the an- 
cients, and that this was continued through his whole life, 
even to extreme old age ; the poorest of men, as he observed 
of himself, did not labour from necessity more than he did 
from choice ; indeed, from all that is related of him, he ap- 
pears not to have had the smallest conception that his art 
was to be acquired by any other means than incessant and 
unwearied diligence, though, as Sir Joshua Reynolds justly 
remarks, he, of all men that ever lived, might have advanced 
the strongest pretensions to the efficacy of genius and inspi- 
ration. Let no one, therefore, overlook this salutary lesson, 
let no one henceforward presume to grudge his pains, or 
think the art of cheap and easy acquirement! I cannot quite 
agree with our revered and excellent painter, that nothing 
but labour is necessary to attain perfection ; but of this I am 
quite certain, that, without labour, all other requisites w r ill 
be vain and fruitless. 

The principal work of Michelangelo, in our art, consists 
of a series of pictures painted on the ceiling and part of the 
walls of the Pope's chapel, commonly called the Cappella 
Sistina. The subjects (taken from the sacred records), be- 
ginning with the Creation, and ending with the Last Judg- 
ment, seem to have been chosen for the purpose of exhibiting 




the history of man, as he stands in relation to the Creator, 
and of showing his origin, progress, and the final dispensa- 
tions of Providence respecting him.* Of the magnificence 
of this plan, as you have lately heard it explained with un- 
paralleled ingenuity and inimitable eloquence, in a way, in 
short, that sets the commentator on a level with bis author f, 
I shall say nothing, but shall confine my observations to the 
peculiar style which distinguishes the works in general, and 
this in particular, of Michelangelo. 

In the first place, it is obvious that he avoids, on all occa- 
sions, a multiplicity of objects, and a multiplicity of parts. 
He knew, as a great critic has judiciously remarked, that, 
in poetry and painting, many little things do not make a 
great one; and he has, therefore, rejected all unnecessary 
subdivisions and unessential particularities : hence the bold 
swell and flow of his line, uninterrupted by useless breaks 
and petty inflections ; hence the unencumbered breadth of 
his surfaces, on which the eye rests unfatigued and unper- 
plexed by impertinent differences and trivial distinctions ; 
and hence the fewness and largeness of the parts, both in 
respect to his figures and his compositions, at once so simple 
and so impressive. 

The same method obtains with him in the intellectual as 
in the practical parts of the art. In his manner of conceiving 
his subject, and telling his story, he equally avoids all petty 
and commonplace details of circumstances, ingenious artifices, 
unimportant shades of character, and merely curious varie- 
ties of expression, which arrest and distract the attention of 

* The Cappella Sistina or Sistine Chapel, forms part of the same pile of 
buildings which contains the Stanze of Raphael, and was built by Baccio 
Pintelli for Sixtus IV., whence its name of Sistine. The frescoes of 
Michelangelo are on the vault and on the altar-wall — the Creation of 
Man, his fall, and the early history of the world with reference to man's 
final redemption and salvation, with the figures of the prophets and 
sibyls, on the vault ; and the Last Judgment on the wall. Michelangelo 
had intended to paint the Fall of Lucifer on the opposite wall to the 
Judgment ; but though some of the designs were made, the work was 
never commenced. The ceiling was painted in 1509 — 12, and the 
Judgment in 1533 — 41. There is an outline of the ceiling in the Trans - 
lation of Kugler's Handbook of Painting, Italy. — W. 

* Opie here appears to refer to Fuseli's Third Lecture ; not that it con- 
tains passages which justify so great a compliment. — W. 

s 4 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. i. 

the spectator, and weaken the force of the general effect : 
essence, not individuality ; sentiment, not incident ; man, not 
men, are his objects ; and, like the Satan and Death of 
Milton, he meditates no second stroke, but hastens, by one 
sure blow, to effect his purpose. 

As his profound knowledge of the human figure taught 
him what to reject, so it likewise taught and enabled him to 
mark the essential forms with unexampled force and preci- 
sion : possessed himself, he instantly possesses the spectator 
with the complete idea of his object. As in the drawing of 
his figures there is more knowledge and precision, so in their 
actions and attitudes there is more vigour and unity than is 
seen in those of any other modern painter. By this is meant 
that the situation and turn of every limb is more correspond- 
ent with the whole, is more perfectly informed with the same 
mind, and more exactly bears its part in the general feeling ; 
and hence it is that, though Raphael often exceeds him in the 
variety of his characters, the particular expressions of pas- 
sion, and what may be called the dramatic effect of his pic- 
tures, yet, in giving the appearance of thought, capacity, and 
dignity, he is altogether unrivalled and unapproached. 

This perfect unity or concurrence of every feature, joint, 
and limb in the same feeling, united to the breadth and bold- 
ness of his style of drawing, is what constitutes the intel- 
lectual energy of his figures, and gives them that air of 
inspiration, and of belonging to a higher species of beings, 
which Sir Joshua Reynolds notices with such admiration. 
Rapt and absorbed themselves, they instantly communicate 
the same sensations to the beholder, who, awe-struck whilst 
he gazes on them, dares not think them on a level and of 
the same rank with himself. 

Such is his figure of the Creator, borne aloft on clouds, 
dividing light from darkness. Such when, descending on 
attendant spirits, he imparts the electric spark of vitality 
and immortality to the newly-formed Adam, or, with a word, 
calls forth the adoring Eve from the side of her sleeping 
mate. Such are the majestic forms of the prophets Isaiah, 
Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Joel. And such, though 
wild and haggard, the female form of the Cumaean Sibyl, and 
many others, if not all, of that sublime and inimitable circle: 
all of them, more or less, in louder or lower tones, proclaim 

LECT. I.] 



" the imagination that 'conceived, and the hand that formed 
us, were divine." 

These are some of the principal features of the style of 
Michelangelo ; a style in which knowlege, energy, and sim- 
plicity bear equal parts ; which unravels perplexity, gives 
the appearance of ease to difficulty, and imparts dignity and 
sentiment to every object it embraces. Though the sublime 
in painting and poetry so overpowers, and takes such abso- 
lute possession of the whole mind, that, whilst the work is 
before us, no room is left for the ungracious and ungrateful 
task of criticism, yet, in cooler moments, it cannot, it must 
not be denied, that Michelangelo had derelictions and defi- 
ciencies too great to be overlooked, and too dangerous to be 
excused ; that he was sometimes capricious and extravagant 
in his inventions, and generally too ostentatious of his anato- 
mical knowledge ; that he wanted the vigorous tone of colour 
and force of chiaroscuro necessary to complete the effect of 
his design ; and that, from aiming always to be great, he 
often violated propriety, neglected the proper discrimination 
of character, and not seldom pushed it into monotony and 

I know it has been pleaded, in mitigation, that great paint- 
ers, like great poets, 

" sometimes gloriously offend, 
And rise to faults true critics dare not mend 

that his errors flowed from the same source as his beauties ; 
were often such as none but himself was ever capable of 
committing, and such as could never have occurred to a mean 
or vulgar mind. But I hold it not safe to admit of apologies 
of this nature, and more particularly in the present case ; for 
errors are errors, from whatever source they spring, and are 
never so likely to be pernicious as when associated with 
splendid and overpowering excellence. 

It being the nature even of the faults of Michelangelo to 
confer a kind, though a false kind, of dignity, too much cau- 
tion and circumspection cannot be used in the study of his 
works. The ill success of his immediate and exclusive imi- 
tators proves that it is not safe for every man to attempt to 
draw the bow of Ulysses, or wield the club of Hercules. Let 
not the student hope, by distorting the limbs, exaggerating 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. 1. 

the action of the muscles, or by purloining here and there a 
figure from his compositions, to become an imitator, though 
he may become a caricaturist, of Michelangelo ; but let him 
first make himself master of his science and principles ; let 
him carefully separate his errors from his excellence, and 
then, if he possess his boundless imagination, he will proba- 
bly succeed better than Vasari, Bronzino, Hemskirk, Coxis, 
Goltzius, Sprangher, and a herd of others, who mistook bom- 
bast for grandeur, distortion for grace, and phrenzied convul- 
sion for energy. . . . Superficial and clumsy mannerists ! 
the style of Michelangelo to them was only the lion's skin on 
the ass's back, which, instead of rendering him terrible, only 
exposed him to blows, ridicule, and contempt. 

Such was not Raffaello Sanzio, the founder of the Roman 
school, the master of passion — the painter of human nature. 

The genius of Raphael was not of that phosphoric kind 
that blazes out of itself without foreign help. His manner, 
at the commencement of his career, was dry, minute, and 
hard to excess ; precisely like that of his master, Pietro 
Perugino, in whose footsteps he appeared, for a time, to be 
going on, without a conception of his own powers, or those 
of the art, and without imbibing a ray of inspiration from 
the miraculous remains of the ancients, by which he was sur- 
rounded, or transferring an atom of their grandeur of style 
into his own works.* A visit to Florence, however, soon 
enabled him to leave his master at a humble distance. Seiz- 
ing every opportunity of improvement, as he rolled on, he 
increased every moment in size and splendour : he mended 
his style of design, improved his colouring, and acquired 
composition. But it was not till after he had been clandes- 
tinely introduced to the sight of Michelangelo's works in the 
Capella Sistina, that he completely freed himself from the 
defects of his first manner. Astonished by those gigantic 
forms, which seemed to look down with contempt on his 
littleness, and to say, with a warning voice, " Go thou and do 

* Raphael was not surrounded by " the remains of the ancients" before 
his visit to Florence, and, indeed, not before his visit to Home, in 1508. 
And the works which he executed immediately after that time, not 
excepting the Dispute, abound in beauties of composition and design, and 
are strongly characterised by the grandeur of style which distinguishes 
his most important works. — W. 

LKCT. 1.] 



likewise," he instantly went home, as we are told by Yasari, 
and, obliterating entirely the work he was then employed on, 
he re-designed and re-painted the whole, in a style of great- 
ness unknown to any of his former productions.* 

Of these figures, a Prophet and Sibyls j", which he endea- 
voured to conceive in the grand gusto, it is, nevertheless, re- 
markable that, in wanting the science and precision, they 
also fail in a great degreee of the sublime and energetic cha- 
racter of those in the Sistine Chapel. The correct judgment 
of Raphael soon advised him of this defect ; and, conscious of 
his worth, as well as of his weakness, he no longer laboured 
to become another Michelangelo, but studied him properly in 
conjunction with nature and the works of the ancients, taking 
as much of each as best corresponded with his own powers. 
Henceforward, therefore, his style of design became original 
and truly his own ; not the vehicle of those awe-creating and 
terrific energies, conceived only by Michelangelo, nor of the 
more exquisite beauty and elevated refinement of the antique, 
but the medium of natural forms, well chosen, indeed, and 
united to an invention, expression, grace, and propriety such 
as, in an equal degree, never before or since fell to the lot of 
one man. 

But, however great and various his powers, his peculiar 
strength, that in which he has never yet been rivalled, and 
never can be surpassed, was expression. To this all his 
efforts tended; for this he invented, drew, and composed, and 
exhausted nature in the choice of subjects to display it : 
every effect of mind on matter, every affection of the human 
soul, as exhibited in the countenance, from the gentlest emo- 
tion to the utmost fury and whirlwind of contending pas- 
sions, from the demoniac phrensy of the possessed boy in the 
Transfiguration to the melting rapture of the Virgin Mother 

* This is a fable, though its origin may have some foundation as 
regards Raphael's aggrandisement of style ; the work, however, which 
Vasari alludes to — the prophet Isaiah, in Sant' Agostino — was painted 
about 1512 ; it is one of Raphael's inferior productions, and is quite un- 
worthy of mention when compared with the Helioclorus, probably painted 
before it. See the notes, referring to this subject, to Barry's third lec- 
ture. — W. 

f The Sibyls of the Chiesa della Pace were not painted until 1514, 
two years after the opening of the Cappella Sistina, and almost an equal 
time from the completion of all the greatest frescoes of the Stanze, which 
were completed during the pontificate of Julius II. — \V 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. I. 

contemplating her divine offspring, may be found so faithfully 
and energetically represented on his canvas, that we not 
only see, but feel, and are, by irresistible sympathy, made 
partakers of his well-imaged joys and sorrows. By this he 
attracts every eye, warms every heart, and sways it to the 
mood of what he likes or loathes. This is what has made 
him, if not the greatest, certainly the most interesting and 
the most universally admired of all modern painters, and ren- 
dered his name, in the general mouth, synonymous with 

The history of no man' s life affords a more encouraging 
and instructive example than that of Raphael. The path by 
which he ascended to eminence is open, and the steps visi- 
ble to all. Pie began with apparently no very uncommon 
fund of ability, but, sensible of his deficiencies, he lost no 
opportunity of repairing them. He studied all the artists of 
his own and the preceding times, he penetrated all their 
mysteries, mastered all their principles, and grafted all their 
separate excellencies on his own stock. His genius, like fire, 
embraced and gathered strength from every object with 
which it came in contact, and at last burst forth in a flame, 
to warm, enlighten, and astonish mankind. 

Both Michelangelo and Raphael, great as they were in 
design, fell extremely short of the ancients : Michelangelo in 
variety, delicacy, and discrimination ; and Raphael in eleva- 
tion, refinement, and precision. The first undoubtedly stands 
highest, but the last is probably the more eligible and safe 
model for imitation. Grace and propriety attend him in 
every step of his progress ; his excellencies are both more 
numerous and more within the scope of general comprehen- 
sion. He saw in nature what every body sees, but nobody 
ever before so well expressed ; and no one, till he is con- 
vinced by experience to the contrary, doubts that he should 
have done precisely like Raphael. On the contrary, Michel- 
angelo saw nature through a medium of his own, which took 
away its littleness, gave it energy and amplitude, and ren- 
dered it more mysterious and imposing. The mere imitator 
of Raphael, therefore, is likely to escape censure, though he 
may possibly deserve little praise ; whilst the imitator of 
Michelangelo risks every thing at once. He must succeed 
or fail altogether — he must be great or contemptible. 




Lecture II. — On Invention. 

Of all the parts of painting, practical or intellectual, the first 
in importance, by the universal acknowledgment of all ages 
and nations, the quality of all others the most rare, the most 
beneficial, and that which bears the most unequivocal marks 
of its divine origin, is undoubtedly Invention. Its possessors 
are, therefore, justly considered as aspiring to the highest 
honours of genius, and entitled to be regarded as the New- 
tons, the Columbuses, and the Alexanders of painting, who 
have discovered new principles, increased the possessions, 
and extended the dominions of art. 

Unfortunately, this most inestimable quality, in which 
genius is thought more particularly to consist, is, of all human 
faculties, the least subject to reason or rule, being derived 
from heaven alone according to some, attributed by others 
to organisation, by a third class to industry, by a fourth to 
circumstances, by a fifth to the influence of the stars, and, in 
the general opinion, the gift of nature only. But though 
few teach us how to improve it, and still fewer how to obtain 
it, all agree that nothing can be done without it. Destitute 
of invention, a poet is but a plagiary, and a painter but a 
copier of others. 

But however true it may be that invention cannot be re- 
duced to rule and taught by regular process, it must necessa- 
rily, like every other effect, have an adequate cause. It 
cannot be by chance that excellence is produced with cer- 
tainty and constancy ; and, however remote and obscure its 
origin, thus much is certain, that observation must precede 
invention, and a mass of materials must be collected before 
we can combine them. He, therefore, who wishes to be a 
painter or a poet, must, like Imlac, enlarge his sphere of 
attention, keep his fancy ever on the wing, and overlook no 
kind of knowledge. He must range deserts and mountains 
for images, picture upon his mind every tree of the forest 
and flower of the valley, observe the crags of the rock and 
the pinnacles of the palace, follow the windings of the rivulet, 
and watch the changes of the clouds ; in short, all nature, 


opie's lecture*. 

[leot. 11. 

savage or civilised, animate or inanimate, the plants of the 
garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, 
and the meteors of the sky, must undergo his examination. 
To a painter or poet nothing can be useless : whatever is 
great, whatever is beautiful, whatever is interesting, and 
whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination, 
and concur to store his mind with an inexhaustible variety 
of ideas, ready for association, on every possible occasion, to 
embellish sentiment, and give effect to truth. It is, more- 
over, absolutely requisite that man, the epitome of all, his 
principal subject and his judge, should become a particular 
object of his investigation. He must be acquainted with all 
that is characteristic and beautiful, both in regard to his 
mental and bodily endowments, must study their analogies, 
and learn how far moral and physical excellence are con- 
nected and dependent one on the other. He must, further, 
observe the power of the passions in all their combinations, 
and trace their changes, as modified by constitution, or by 
the accidental influences of climate or custom, from the 
sprightliness of infancy to the despondence of decrepitude. 
He must be familiar with all the modes of life, and, above 
all, endeavour to discriminate the essential from the acci- 
dental, to divest himself of the prejudices of his own age and 
country, and, disregarding temporary fashions and local 
taste, learn to see nature and beauty in the abstract, and rise 
to general and transcendental truth, which will always be the. 

Nor is his labour yet at an end. To the study of nature 
he must also join that of art, and enrich his mind by the con- 
templation of all the treasures produced by it in ancient and 
modern times, tracing its progress from its rudest infancy to 
its ultimate perfection ; not contenting himself with a super- 
ficial survey, but studying attentively the peculiar manner 
of each master, dwelling on all their successful efforts, scru- 
tinising all their defects, observing all their beautiful thoughts; 
inquiring whence they were derived, with what connected, 
and how far founded in nature ; entering into all the artifices 
of their compositions, and comparing their different modes of 
execution and arrangement, till he penetrates and developes 
the principles on which their most splendid effects are pro- 




Thus impregnated and warmed by the contemplation of 
high excellence, our bosoms expand, we learn to see with 
other eyes than our own, and our minds, accustomed to the 
conceptions of the noblest and brightest intellects, are pre- 
pared, by degrees, to follow them in their loftiest flights, and 
rival them in their most vigorous exertions. 

Here it will perhaps be remarked, that the greatest pains 
are often fruitless, and that we are not seldom called upon 
to admire the productions of native powers, unaided, un- 
forced, unblestj or unperverted by any kind of culture or fo- 
reign assistance whatever ; whence it is inferred by many, 
that genius is no more than a sort of instinct, by which its 
happy possessors are led, without effort and without anxiety, 
to produce admirable works, though, at the same time, com- 
pletely ignorant of the principles and causes on which such 
effects necessarily depend ; an inference, than which, in my 
opinion, nothing can be more erroneous and unfounded; 
being convinced that it would be impossible to find one in- 
stance wherein any high degree of excellence had been at- 
tained without great activity and exertion, and, consequently, 
considerable acquirements. The possessors of these sup- 
posed native talents had, it is true, been often denied the 
usual road to eminence ; the gates of learning were perhaps 
shut to them ; but we are not hastily to conclude from thence 
that they must have stood still ; they defrauded the turnpike, 
and conducted their silent march another way, pursuing their 
journey not the less rapidly, though unaccompanied by the 
noise of flogging and whipping incident to travellers by the 
public stage. In short, whether observed or not, their time 
and talents must have been employed and exercised ; and 
they profited of opportunities presented by chance, or pro- 
cured by stealth, or there is no truth in the truest of all pro- 
verbs — "Out of nothing, nothing can come." 

I do not, however, by what has been said, mean to assert, 
that the natural abilities of all men are on a par. I have 
allowed that equal degrees of industry and exertion will not 
in all cases produce equal effects ; I only contend, that what- 
ever differences may exist as to original capacity, still nature 
must be observed, art studied, and the mind well impregnated 
before any fruits of high flavour and excellence can be de- 
rived from it. Homer, Shakspere, Milton, Michelangelo. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. m 

and Raphael, may have been cast in a finer mould, " in- 
formed with purer fire," and adapted to receive, combine, 
and reflect images with greater facility, vivacity, and cor- 
rectness, than other men ; but I cannot suppose on dif- 
ferent principles ; and if their works were not the result 
of knowledge, labour, and experience, they produced them 
without materials, and are, consequently, less inventors than 
creators. On such an hypothesis, it would be the height of 
absurdity to speak of the progress or cultivation of the art ; 
the coming of a poet or painter would be altogether acci- 
dental or providential, and the greatest artist might as pro- 
bably have been Adam, or the first man that ever saw a 
pencil, as Apelles, or Raphael, though born under the most 
favourable circumstances, when the art was in its zenith. 
Nor ought we to have been more surprised, had Captain 
Cook found a Rubens carrying painting to perfection in Ota- 
heite, than our ancestors were at seeing one doing the same 
in Flanders. 

Next to the study of nature, and the fine examples pro- 
duced by the art itself, reading of various kinds, chiefly of 
history, natural history, voyages, travels, works of imagina- 
tion, and, above all, of poetry, in all its branches, may be 
considered as affording the most copious fund of materials, 
and imparting the most powerful stimulus to invention. 

Poetry, in particular, bearing the closest analogy to paint- 
ing, both arts setting out from the same place, journeying to 
the same end, and requiring the same kind of original powers, 
— both professing to improve upon their common models, to 
imitate instead of copying, to avoid the accidental blemishes 
and imperfections of individual nature, — to bring the scenes, 
actions, and persons represented before us, with all the at- 
tendant circumstances necessary to elucidate and embellish 
them, purified and exalted to the highest pitch of energy 
and beauty, and such as, though possible and probable, may 
never have actually existed, — we cannot wonder that drink- 
ing deep of the Pierian spring should have been forcibly re- 
commended by all writers on the subject, as having the most 
direct tendency to exercise, warm, invigorate, and enrich 
the imagination, and excite noble and daring conceptions. 

Here, however, it will be proper to remark, that, though 
from the acknowledged similarity in the principles and ef- 




fects of these two arts, the one has been called mute poesy, 
and the other speaking picture, such is still the very great 
diversity in their modes and means of exerting their powers, 
that the study of one can, at best, be considered as a general 
only, and not at all as a technical help to invention in the 
other : the roads they take, though parallel, lie as entirely 
apart and unconnected as the senses of hearing and seeing, 
the different gates by which they enter the mind. The one 
operates in time, the other in space ; the medium of the one 
is sound, of the other colour ; and the force of the one is suc- 
cessive and cumulative, of the other collected and instanta- 
neous. Hence the poet, in his treatment of a story, is 
enabled to bespeak the reader's favour by a graceful intro- 
duction, describing his characters, relating what has already 
happened, and showing their present situation, and thus, 
preparing him for what is to come, to lead him on, step by 
step, with increasing delight, to the full climax of passion 
and interest ; whilst the painter, on the contrary, deprived of 
all such auxiliary aid, is obligated to depend on the effect of 
a single moment. That, indeed, is a critical moment, in 
which all the most striking and beautiful circumstances that 
can be imagined are concentrated, — big with suspense, in- 
terest, passion, terror, and action ; in short, the moment of 
explosion, which illuminates and brings at once into view 
the past, present, and future, and which, when well rendered, 
is often more than equivalent to all the successive energies 
of the poet. 

This contrariety in their means, in some degree separates 
and limits their fields of operation ; and (though there are 
many subjects equally adapted to both arts) calls, in general, 
for a different principle in the choice of them. The most 
striking beauties, as presented to one sense, being frequently 
wholly untranslateable into the language of another, it ne- 
cessarily results, that many interesting passages in history 
and poetry are incapable of affording more than a bald and 
insipid representation on canvas. Of this description is 
the incident in the Iliad, where one of Priam's younger sons, 
fallen before the superior force of Achilles, solicits his life 
on account of his youth. "Wretch!" exclaims the furious 
hero, " dost thou complain of dying, when thou knowest that 
Achilles must shortly die?" Such, also, is the celebrated 



opie's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

passage in Corneille's Horatii, where the father of one set 
of the combatants, on being informed that his son, left single 
against his three antagonists, had turned his back, appears 
much agitated and enraged ; and when one of his attendants 
asks, " What should your son have done against such a 
disparity ?" instantly retorts, " He should have died." En- 
thusiastic strokes of energy and sublimity like these, irre- 
sistibly command warm and universal admiration ; but, 
unfortunately for the pencil, they defy utterance by any 
power but words. Of the same class, also, is what passed 
in the council preceding the Revolution, between James II. 
and the old Earl of Bedford, whose son, the illustrious Rus- 
sell, had suffered death in the foregoing reign : " My lord," 
said the king, addressing himself to the earl, " you are an 
honest man, have great credit, and can do me signal service." 
" Sir," replied the earl, "I am a feeble old man, and very 
unable to afford you any considerable assistance; — but I 
had a son," added he, " who, if he had been living, could 
have served your majesty in a more effectual manner." 
James was so struck with this reflection, that he forbore to 
answer another word. This, which is a very striking piece 
of history, with the other passages just mentioned, and 
many more of a similar nature, have frequently been pointed 
out by people unacquainted with the proper limits of art, as 
subjects well calculated for the pencil ; which is so far from 
being true, that they are all of them deficient in many of 
the principal requisites to make a good picture : they all 
allude to distant events and complicated circumstances, enter 
into feelings which have no decided outward and visible 
signs, and exhibit only ambiguous expression of coun- 
tenance and unintelligible action, at which had a deaf man 
been present, he could have formed no idea of the remarkable 
peculiarity that distinguishes them from all other incidents, 
and to which they owe all their power of moving. In 
addition to this, they are also necessarily deficient in that 
variety and contrast of forms, ages, sexes, and draperies, 
which engage and entertain the sight, and sometimes, with 
skilful management, supply, in a degree, by picturesque 
effect, the want of real interest built upon striking situation, 
palpable sentiment, decided passion, beautiful forms, and 




energetic action, the proper basis of all subjects peculiarly 
adapted to painting. 

Invention, as a general power, undoubtedly depends on 
the command of a large fund of ideas, and an intuitive readi- 
ness of associating and combining them in every possible 
mode. This produces those radiant recollections by which 
the images of absent things are often almost involuntarily 
called up, with all the vivacity of real objects moving about 
us, and pursuing us as in a kind of waking dream. Thus 
the casual mention of the single word battle will, to some 
minds, instantly furnish out an endless chain of associated 
circumstances ; cannons roar, clouds of smoke arise, the 
combatants on each side present themselves, we see them 
rush together, fight, struggle, and die : we hear their screams 
and shouts, notice all their various movements and changes 
of colour, advert to all the surrounding objects, observe 
how they are affected, and share their hopes, fears, compas- 
sion, rage, astonishment, or despair. To an Englishman of 
warm feelings, and a lively fancy, the word would perhaps 
suggest a different train of associated ideas, connected with 
another element : his imagination would present the picture 
of a sea-fight in all its accumulated horrors, — of ships sunk 
or blown up, batteries silenced, and whole fleets of the enemy 
at one stroke taken or destroyed ; it might transport him 
instantly to Copenhagen, or the banks of the Nile, and force 
him to dwell with an equal mixture of grief, fondness, and 
exultation on the unparalleled deeds and the untimely fate 
of the hero of Trafalgar. 

As a technical power, invention consists, not in com- 
posing, in the first instance, the story to be represented, but 
in seizing at once on the peculiar and prominent feature of 
the subject, placing it in the noblest and most interesting 
point of view, taking in all that belongs to the time and 
place chosen, discriminating the characters, entering into 
their situations, circumstances, and relations ; and ail this 
with a reference at the same time to the genius and powers 
of the art by which they are to be embodied. The painter, 
for instance, as soon as his mind is affected by the grand or 
the pathetic, instantly clothes his ideas in all that is touch- 
ing and awful to the sight, and carries it out through the 
whole of his composition, which includes the invention and 



[lecC ir. 

disposition of every part, the managing his back-ground, 
throwing his lights and shades, and ordering the attitudes, 
and action, and expression of every figure that enters into, 
and constitutes a part of his work. 

But though, in general, the poet and the painter borrow 
the skeletons of their stories from a foreign source, it is 
evident that neither of them holds his art as subservient to 
any other ; their business is something more than to illus- 
trate, explain, or fill the chasms of history or tradition : each, 
therefore, as soon as he has fixed on a subject, considers the 
end proposed, examines all the materials presented by his 
author, and all that his own mind suggests on the occasion, 
and selects, rejects, retrenches, adds, transpose?, and moulds 
them all anew 7 , till he has made them fit for his purpose ; 
each adopts a chain of circumstances for the most part in- 
applicable in the case of the other ; each avails himself of 
their common privilege of " daring every thing to accom- 
plish his end;" not scrupling, on some occasions, to run 
counter, if necessary, even to matter of fact ; for though 
most strictly bound to the observance of truth and proba- 
bility, these are obviously very different from such as is 
required in history ; his truth is the truth of effect, and his 
probability the perfect harmony and congruity of all the 
parts of his story, and their fitness to bring about the in- 
tended effect — that of striking the imagination, touching the 
passions, and developing in the most forcible manner the 
leading sentiment of the subject. 

" It is allowed on all hands," says Sir J. Reynolds, " that 
facts and events, however they may bind the historian, have 
no dominion over the poet and the painter. With us, 
history is made to bend and conform to the great idea of 
art. And why ? Because these arts, in their highest pro- 
vince, are not addressed to the gross senses, but to the de- 
sires of the mind, to that spark of divinity which stirs 
within, impatient of being circumscribed and pent up by 
the world which is about us. Just so much as our art has 
of this, just so much of dignity, I had almost said of divinity, 
it exhibits ; and those of our artists who possessed this 
mark of distinction in the highest degree, acquired from 
thence the glorious appellation of divine." Lord Bacon 
also justly observes, that "the human mind is never satis- 




fied with the distribution of things as they are ordinarily 
met with in common life ; it pants after a higher order of 
excellence, and creates to itself a world of its own, possess- 
ing more grandeur, and exhibiting more exalted and more 
perfect instances of heroism, enthusiasm, patience, fortitude, 
and justice, than the present dispensation of things admits 
of." The opinions of these great men will probably meet 
with corresponding sentiments in every breast ; for it cannot 
be doubted, that to fill this craving void in the imagination, 
to supply the imperfections of natural objects, to embody 
the highest possible ideas of excellence, and finally, to in- 
spire mankind with zeal and affection for all that is truly, 
great and lovely, or, as the poet expresses it, 

" To raise the genius, and to mend the heart, '* 

is one of the first and most important, if not the only proper,, 
object of painting and poetry. 

The principle of deviating from real fact and individual 
farms in search of higher excellence, however strange it may 
appear to such as have paid little attention to the subject, is 
far from being new or singular ; it has, indeed, been the gene- 
ral opinion of the enlightened part of mankind in all ages* 
" He," says Proclus, " who takes for his model such forms 
merely as nature produces, will never attain perfection ; for 
the works of nature are full of dissonance and disproportion, 
and fall very short of the true standard of beauty."* On this 
account Demetrius was blamed for being too natural, and 
Dionysius ironically called the waw-painter.f Lysippus, on 
the contrary, adhering to the precept of Aristotle given to 
painters and poets, boasted that he made men, not as they 
were, but as they ought to be ; and Phidias astonished all 
those who beheld the forms he gave to his gods and heroes, 

* This passage is quoted by Reynolds in his Third Discourse, from 
Junius De Pictura Vtfr rum. — W. 

f This Demetrius was the sculptor of that name, and apparently a 
contemporary of Phidias. He made a statue of Simon, the first author 
on equitation, who found fault with the horses of Micon for the under- 
eyelashes which he gave them ; Demetrius was therefore probably the 
contemporary of Micon, who was contemporary with Phidias. The Dio- 
nysius mentioned is probably Dionysius of Colophon, though Dionysius 
the maw-painter ( Anthropographos) is mentioned only by Pliny, and 
among the later artists. {Hist. Nat. xxxv. 10.. 73.) — W. 

t 3 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. ir. 

not, according to Cicero, by copying any object ever pre- 
sented to his sight, but by contemplating the more perfect 
idea of beauty in his mind, to the imitation of which all his 
skill and labour were directed.* From this care to advance 
their art, even beyond nature itself in her individual produc- 
tions, arises that admiration, that almost adoration, which is 
paid by all competent judges to those divine remains of an- 
tiquity that are come down to us. Hence Phidias, Lysippus, 
and other great sculptors, are still held in veneration ; and 
Apelles, Zeuxis, Protogenes, and other excellent painters, 
though their works have perished, are, and will for ever be, 
admired. They all, in the glowing language of a celebrated 
Italian author, u drew after the light of fancy, the examples 
of mind, which alone gives animation, energy, and beauty to 
art, and causes the loves and the graces to descend and take 
up their habitation in the hardest marble, and to subsist in 
the emptiness of light and shadow." 

Nor have the moderns, though unable as yet to attain 
equal perfection, been less convinced than the ancients of 
the power of this superior principle in art. Leonardo da 
Vinci instructs the painter to form this idea to himself, and 
Raphael writes thus to Count Castiglione concerning his 
Galatea ; " To paint a beauty it is necessary to see many 
beauties ; but because there is so great a scarcity of lovely 
women, I am constrained to make use of one certain idea, 
which I have formed in my own fancy as a model." f Thus 
also Guido Reni, when sending to Pome his picture of St. 
Michael, painted for the church of the Capuchins, wrote at 
the same time to Monsignor Monsano, the pope's steward, 
in the following manner : " I wish I had the wings of an 
angel to have ascended into Paradise, and there to have be- 
held the forms of beatified spirits, from which I might have 
copied my archangel ; but not being able to mount so high, 
and it being vain for me to search for his resemblance here 
below, I was forced to make an introspection into my own 
mind, and to have recourse to that idea of beauty which I 
had formed in my imagination for a prototype, where I have 
likewise created the contrary idea of deformity and ugliness ; 

* The remark of Cicero alluded to, which is also quoted by Reynolds 
(/. c.) f is in the Orator, c. 71. — W. 

f See note to Barry's Third Lecture. — W. 




but I leave the consideration of that till I paint the devil, 
and in the mean time shun the very thought of it as much 
as possible." On this letter it may be remarked that, though 
Guido felt the necessity of seeking aid from the ideal prin- 
ciple, it is clear he did not understand its full extent and 
import in art ; for the ideal, if it mean any thing, means the 
selection and assemblage of all that is most powerful and 
best calculated to produce the wished- for effect, and relates 
to the management of a whole composition, and to the just 
delineation of a bad moral character as much as to that of 
the most beautiful and amiable. Thus Iago, Macbeth, and 
Shylock, are as beautifully drawn, and as perfect in a dra- 
matic point of view, — perhaps even more so, — than Othello, 
Hamlet, Imogen, or Ophelia. The combination of mere 
deformity and ugliness can only represent disgusting and 
contemptible imbecility, calculated perhaps to frighten chil- 
dren in a nursery, but nothing more : such a picture, to 
borrow an expression from a noted satirist, might be a 
damned thing, but certainly not the devil. He, " whose face 
deep scars of thunder had entrenched, who stood like a tower, 
whose form had not yet lost all its original brightness, nor 
appeared less than archangel ruined, and through excess of 
glory obscured," must be derived from the same elevated 
source of invention, and composed, though of different ma- 
terials, on the same pure and refined technical principle as 
his more virtuous and happy antagonist : in the one must be 
embodied all that denotes the powerful, the terrible, and the 
malignant ; as, in the other, all that appears majestic, amiable, 
and beneficent ; and nothing, surely, can prove the force of 
Milton's genius, and the purity of his taste, more decisively 
than this circumstance, that, while other poets contented 
themselves with exhibiting the prince of evil as a wretched, 
deformed, diminutive, pitiful hobgoblin, he alone, possessed 
by the true spirit of the ancient painters and sculptors, drew 
a character of him which, for sublimity of conception, felicity 
of execution, and powerful effect, equals or surpasses any 
thing of the kind that the art of poetry has yet produced, 
and which, in its way, may justly be considered as the ne 
plus ultra of human invention. 

But, however allowable, and even necessary, the use of 
poetical licence may be to a painter, he is not therefore to 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

imagine himself warranted in the indulgence of every kind 
of libertj- that caprice or ignorance may suggest. Experi- 
ence will soon teach him, that though he is not confined to 
mere fact and the exact shape of his model, nor brought upon 
oath to declare " the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but 
the truth ;" he is yet only freed from the letter, to bind him 
more closely to the spirit of his subject, and if he does not 
show precisely how it happened, he has the harder task 
assigned him of showing how it might and should have hap- 
pened, to make the greatest possible impression on the spec- 
tator. His imperfections will not be excused, like those of 
the naturalist and historian, by laying the blame on the origi- 
nal ; the unities of time, place, and action must be strictly 
observed, and, above all, a perfect harmony and consistency 
of parts and style can never be dispensed with ; for, however 
they may be mixed in nature, in art the grave will not suit 
with the gay, nor the ludicrous with the terrible ; the heroic 
and the sacred must never be associated with the mean and 
the trivial, nor will the authority and masterly execution of 
a Paul Veronese reconcile us to the ostentatious displays of 
such puerile incidents as a cat clawing the meat, or a dog 
gnawing a bone, in the foreground of a picture of the Last 
Supper. Hogarth told his story as perfectly, and with as much 
ingenuity, as Raphael ; but their styles would bear no mix- 
ture, as the meanness of character, and the strokes of wit, 
humour, and satire, with which the former abounds, and 
which make so large a part of his merits, would by no means 
become the classical dignity and energetic gravity of the 
latter. Such, therefore, as is his subject, such must be the 
artist's manner of treating it, and such his choice of accom- 
paniments. His background, and every object in his compo- 
sition, animate or inanimate, must all belong to one another, 
and point to the same end ; and under these restrictions 
he tramples with impunity on all vulgar bounds, and scruples 
not, on great occasions, to press the elements into his ser- 
vice, or even to call in the aid of imaginary beings and 
supernatural agency, to heighten the terrors of his scene, 
and more perfectly effect his purpose. 

Thus Raphael, in his picture called the Incendio del 
Borgo *, has imagined a tempest (as appears by the driving 
* One of the frescoes of the Vatican Stanze. — W. 




volumes of smoke and flame, and by the flying of the hair 
and draperies of his figures) to give effect and add to the 
horrors of the conflagration ; and, in another place, holds out 
the vision of St. Peter and St. Paul, with drawn swords and 
threatening looks, to wither the strength of Attila, and terrify 
him from his purpose of entering Rome.* Swayed also by 
similar motives, Shakspere made his witches assemble in a 
subterraneous cavern, or on a blasted heath, " in thunder, 
lightning, and in rain," and the more surely to excite our 
pity, and heighten our abhorrence of the cruelty and ingra- 
titude of Lear's daughters, exhibits the old king mad, wan- 
dering by night, and exposed bare-headed to all " the pelting 
of the pitiless storm." In like manner, Milton, to impress on 
us more forcibly the terrible consequences of the trans- 
gression of our first parents, makes the heavens w T eep, and 
the earth groan at the completion of that mortal sin, which 
"brought death into the world, and all our woe ;" and thus 
Homer, to increase the importance of his heroes, and give 
dignity and interest to his subject, calls all the elements to> 
his assistance, brings down the celestial, raises the infernal, 
deities, joins heaven, earth, and hell together, and suspends 
the fate of mortals and immortals, men and gods, equally on 
the issue of the combat. 

To come nearer to our own times, I know of no one who 
has availed himself of poetic licence with more address than 
Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his celebrated picture of the Death 
of Cardinal Beaufort, painted for the Shakspeare Gallery.f 
The varied beauties of this work might well employ a great 
part of a lecture, but, at present, I shall pass them over, and 
attend only to what relates immediately to the question 
before us, the effect of the visionary devil, couched close, 
and listening eagerly behind the pillow of the dying wretch ; 
which not only invigorates and clothes the subject in its 
appropriate interest and terror, but immediately clears up all 
ambiguity, by informing us that those are not bodily suffer- 
ings which Ave behold so forcibly delineated, that they are 
not merely the pangs of death which make him grin, but 
that his agony proceeds from those daggers of the mind, the 
overwhelming horrors of a guilty and an awakened con- 

* In the fresco in the same apartments, known as the Attila. — W.' 
f Now in the Dulwich Gallery. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. it. 

science. This was the point on which rested the whole 
moral effect of the piece ; it was absolutely necessary to be 
understood, and could by no other means have been so 
strongly and perspicuously expressed. An expedient, there- 
fore, at once so necessary, so consistent with the spirit of 
the subject, and so completely successful, far from being- 
regarded as an unwarrantable licence, is justifiable by all 
rules of sound criticism, and ought to be regarded as one of 
the most signal examples of the invention of the artist. 

It is to be lamented that this most poetical incident, pro- 
ducing equal effect, and proceeding from the same power of 
fancy as that which caused the weird sisters to rise like 
bubbles and vanish with their enchanted cauldrons, which 
forged the air-drawn dagger to marshal Macbeth the way to 
Duncan, which dictated the resurrection to Banquo's ghost 
to fill the chair of the murderer, has not as yet been properly 
felt and appreciated according to its merits. So habituated 
are the people of this country to the sight of portraiture 
only, that they can scarcely as yet consider painting in any 
other light ; they will hardly admire a landscape that is not 
a view of a particular place, nor a history unless composed of 
likenesses of the persons represented ; and are apt to be 
staggered, confounded, and wholly unprepared to follow such 
vigorous flights of imagination, as would — as will be felt 
and applauded with enthusiasm, in a more advanced and 
liberal stage of criticism. In our exhibitions (which often 
display extraordinary powers wasted on worthless subjects,) 
one's ear is pained, one's very soul is sick with hearing 
crowd after crowd, sweeping round and, instead of discussing 
the merits of the different works on view (as to conception, 
composition, and execution), all reiterating the same dull 
and tasteless question, Who is that ? and Is it like ? Such 
being the case, it is no wonder that this work of our great 
painter has been condemned without mercy, by a set of cold- 
hearted, fac- simile connoisseurs, who are alike ignorant of 
the true end and the extensive powers of the art ; who 
forget that Pegasus has wings to carry him unobstructed 
over mountains and seas, or who wish to have him trimmed, 
adorned with winkers, and reduced to canter prettily and 
properly on a turnpike road. Of the same class were those 
who of late endeavoured to rob the play of Macbeth of the 




powerful and affecting incident of the ghost above alluded 
to. Happily, however, for the true lovers of Shakspere, 
the genuine feelings of the public have decided against this 
most barbarous mutilation, and happily for the real judges 
and lovers of painting, the illustrious artist in question, 
though warned, before the picture was finished, of the outcry 
that would be raised against his introduction of the busy, 
meddling fiend, did not give way to his squeamish advisers, 
but, confiding in his more refined taste, riper judgment, and 
nicer feelings, boldly committed his claims to posterity, by 
whom the debt, due to him from the present age, will be 
discharged with interest, provided the art advances here in a 
manner equal to the expectations which are now universally 
raised. From the instances already mentioned, to which 
thousands more, and perhaps stronger, might be added, it 
may be inferred that all possible licence may be granted, and 
a work elevated to any degree of the extraordinary without 
incurring the censure of being extravagant, provided — but 
here the mighty labour lies, which may well deter any 
attempt much above the ordinary course of nature — provided 
that the trains of ideas are perfectly connected, and the 
whole completely consistent with itself; that there is no 
break or opening between them, nothing of a discordant 
nature suffered to interpose, to check the progress of the 
imagination, expose the illusion, and recall a different set of 
principles to the mind : this is all that is meant by pro- 
bability in the imitative arts ; and with this proviso, and no 
other, the precept of Horace takes place in its fullest extent, 
and painters and poets may do anything. 

Invention may be demonstrated in every part of the art : 
Michelangelo shows it more particularly in the unrivalled 
breadth, simplicity, greatness, and energetic character of his 
forms, and style of design, as well as in the epic grandeur of 
his conception ; Giorgione, and Titian, in being the first 
who gave the true appearance of visible objects by the force, 
depth, and richness of their colouring ; Correggio and Rem- 
brandt, in chiaroscuro ; and Rubens in composition. All 
these may be considered as the discoverers of principles, and 
the givers of features and limbs to the art itself ; of whom all 
who come after are necessarily more or less the copiers ; and 
I have, in consequence, treated of them under the several 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

elementary heads to which they belong. But it yet remains 
to speak of invention in its more limited and specific sense, 
that is, the complete comprehension of any given subject in 
all its parts, or the discovery and combinations of all the 
circumstances necessary to exhibit it with the utmost pre- 
cision, truth, and force possible ; which, though possessed, in 
a greater or less degree, by all those I have just mentioned, 
is the peculiar province of Raphael alone, in which he reigns 
supreme, excelling in it not only all the moderns, but, for 
anything that appears to the contrary, all the ancients also. 
Raphael, more than any other man, felt immediately the 
whole force of his subject, saw what it had, what it wanted, 
or was fertile in expedients to explain and embellish it, and 
to supply its deficiencies. No man's mind possessed so wide 
a range, gathered in so completely all the circumstances be- 
longing to time, place, and action, or combined them with so 
much skill. No man drew characters so multiplied and so 
various, discriminated them so nicely, entered so deeply into 
their feelings, and gave them such clear and decided expres- 
sions. Under the most barren surface he discovered mines 
sparkling with the richest ores, and, touched by his pencil, 
the most unpromising subject bursts at once on the spec- 
tator, vivid, picturesque, and teeming with circumstances 
striking, amusing, and instructive. Playing on the utmost 
verge of possibility, he is never extravagant, and, keeping 
always within the bounds of probability, he is never insipid ; 
he never sacrifices the primary to a secondary object, but 
hastens to the important point, and draws, colours, groups 
his figures, invents, alters, or suppresses incidents, always 
with a view to the full expression of the principal action of 
the piece ; in short, his story is always told with a grace, 
probability, perspicuity, ingenuity, force, and pathos, alto- 
gether captivating and surprising, and which we may doubt 
of ever seeing equalled, but are certain of never seeing 
surpassed. On the whole, therefore, it must be granted to 
Raphael, that, notwithstanding he seldom ascended the 
brightest heaven of invention, reached the conception of 
undescribed being, or rivalled the Greeks in the delineation 
of perfect beauty, enchanting grace, and character truly 
superhuman, he has, perhaps, reached the utmost extent of 
the art in pathos and expression, and so far explored the 




natural regions, that it is scarcely possible to propose a 
subject/or imagine a situation, within the sphere of huma- 
nity, which he has not treated, or in the treatment of which 
some considerable assistance may not be derived from his 
works; and, take him for all in all, he undoubtedly form3 the 
richest, most extensive, and most useful magazine of mate- 
rials for study ; with the least admixture of anything capable 
of misleading inexperience, of inspiring false taste, or of 
flattering the eye at the expense of the understanding. 

It is happy for this country that it possesses many of the 
finest specimens of the powers of Raphael. The cartoon of 
the St. Paul preaching at Athens, is, of itself, a school of 
art, in which the student may find most of the principles of 
historical invention, composition, and expression, displayed 
in characters of fire, not addressed to the eye or imagination 
only, but also to the understanding and the heart. This 
will be more sensibly felt, and the painter's merit more 
clearly understood, by comparing his work with another, on 
the same subject, by Jacopo Bassano, in which that artist 
has, as usual, contrived to leave out all that dignifiet, all that 
interests, all that characterises, and all that renders the story 
peculiarly proper for the pencil. As he knew St. Paul was 
but a man, he perhaps thought any man might be St. Paul, 
and taking the first unwashed artificer that came in his way, 
set him up as a model for the apostle, whom he consequently 
represents destitute of majesty, grace, action, or energy, and 
drawling out what no person attends to, or can believe 
worthy of attention. How different, on the same occasion, 
was the conduct of Raphael ! He took into consideration, 
not the real person of the saint, which is said not to have been 
of the most imposing class, but the intellectual vigour of his 
character, the importance of his mission, and the impression 
that ought to be made on the beholder ; and, as a painter 
cannot make his hero speak like a great man, he knew it 
was his duty to render his mind visible, and make him look 
and act like one ; and w r e accordingly find him on a raised 
platform, in a pre-eminent situation equally commanding his 
audience and the spectators, with parallel outstretched arms, 
and in an attitude at once simple, energetic, and sublime, 
thundering with divine enthusiasm against the superstitions 
and abominations of the heathen, and seeming, in the lan- 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

guage of the prophet, to call on heaven and earth to bear 
witness to the truth of his doctrine.* 

Instead of Athens, the university of the world, abounding 
with statues, adorned with all that is elegant and magnificent 
in architecture, and displaying on every side marks of un- 
rivalled opulence and the most refined taste, Bassan presents 
us with three or four miserable huts, unworthy even of the 
name of a village ; and, for an audience, we have a few half 
naked peasants, of the lowest class, with their wives and 
children, suited however, it must be confessed, to the preacher, 
to whom they pay at least as much attention as he deserves ; 
that is, they neither hear nor see him, but proceed quietly in 
gathering apples, pressing grapes, shearing sheep, or their 
other usual employments. This artist painted what he saw 
admirably well, but he saw with his eye only ; destitute of 
imagination, and ignorant of the powers of his art, of the 
time, place, nature, extent, and importance of his subject, he 
could not, like Raphael, transport us to Greece, and set us 
down in the midst of an assembly of philosophers ; he could 
not penetrate their minds, discriminate their characters, nor, 
by their different expressions of curiosity, meditation, in- 
credulity, contempt, and rankling malice, enable us, with no 
great assistance from fancy, to distinguish the Stoic, the 
Cynic, the Epicurean, the Jew Rabbi, and others appropriate 
to the occasion. We do not, as in the cartoon, see one 
touched, another confounded, a third inflamed, and a fourth 
appalled by the irresistible force of that eloquence, which, 
in the full conviction of Dionysius and Damaris, manifests 
its ultimate success, ensures the downfall of polytheism, and 
the final triumph and establishment of Christianity. 

Such are the powers of the pencil when under the direc- 
tion of a comprehensive mind ; but it behoves every artist 
to measure his wings before he takes his flight, to appreciate 
his powers before he chooses his subject : otherwise, the 
greater the attempt, with inadequate abilities, the greater 
and more ridiculous will be the failure ; as may be seen by 
Bassan, w T ho in painting brass pots, copper kettles, and even 
men and women of the lowest class, and in their ordinary 

* The figure of Paul preaching in this Cartoon, was adapted by Ra- 
phael from the figure of the same saint, by Masaccio, or more probably 
Filippino Lippi, in the church of the Carmine at Florence. — W. 

LEG?. II.] 



employments, had scarcely an equal ; and his pictures, where 
nothing higher is attempted, though not calculated to live 
in description, afford great pleasure to the sight by the fresh- 
ness and harmony of the colouring, the spirit of the touch, 
and the illusive truth of the effect of the whole. 

That Raphael was qualified to do justice to a great sub- 
ject appears by the foregoing instance ; that he equally 
knew how to enrich a barren one, will be seen by what 
follows ; for where can be found a more decisive proof of 
invention — I had almost said creation — than in the cartoon 
of Christ's Charge to Peter? — a subject which, I will ven- 
ture to say, offers very little capable of tempting a common 
mind and common powers to undertake it. But, however 
slightly the incident is touched by the historian, and how- 
ever meagre it may appear in the book, in Raphael the 
whole is full, animated, connected, rounded, and wound up 
to the highest pitch, and, for conception, discrimination of 
character, composition, and expression, stands forward as 
one of his most distinguished works. In this picture the 
apostles are all collected into one compact group, as would 
naturally happen when any important communication was 
expected ; and the Saviour, both by his majestic simplicity 
of action, and his detached situation, is evidently the prin- 
cipal figure of the piece. Before him St. Peter kneels, with 
joyful reverence, to receive the sacred charge; St. John, the 
beloved disciple, who may be supposed to feel some mortifi- 
cation at this choice of a pastor, presses forward with en- 
thusiasm, as if to show that, in zeal and affection, he yields 
to no one ; and the rest, though all attentive and dignified, 
are varied both in attitude and expression, with an extra- 
ordinary and surprising felicity of management, — some 
seeming to feel complete satisfaction in the preference given 
to Peter, — some to doubt its propriety, — some appear in- 
clined to whisper disapprobation, — while the gestures of 
others betray their subjection to the demon of envy. All 
these varied and contrasted emotions, accompanied each by 
its appropriate action, and physiognomical character and 
temperament, which display so deep an insight into the 
human mind, are the pure offspring of the artist's imagina- 
tion, and so happily supply the deficiencies of the historian, 
that, far from weakening or contradicting, they at once 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. II. 

aggrandise, embellish, and render the truth more lively, 
probable, and affecting. 

It would be endless to enumerate all the instances of in- 
vention so profusely scattered over the works of Raphael, 
many of which, also, it would be difficult or impossible to 
explain, without having the pictures or engravings from 
them before us. I shall therefore content myself with ad- 
ducing one more remarkable example of his powers in ex- 
pression, and his ingenuity in telling his story. 

In the cartoon of the Sacrifice at Lystra, the inhabitants 
of that city, it appears, are about to offer divine honours to 
Paul and Barnabas, and it was necessary that the cause of 
this extraordinary enthusiasm, the restoring the limb of a 
cripple, should be explained ; which to any powers less than 
those under consideration, would, perhaps, have been insur- 
mountable, for this reason, that painting having only the 
choice of one single moment of time, if we take the instant 
before the performance of the miracle, how can we show 
that it ever took place ? if we adopt the instant after, how 
shall it appear that the man had ever been a cripple? 
Raphael has chosen the latter ; and, by throwing his now 
useless crutches on the ground, giving him the uncertain 
and staggering attitude of a man accustomed to support, 
and still in some degree doubtful of his newly acquired 
power, and by the uncommon eagerness with which he makes 
him address his benefactors, points out both his gratitude 
and the occasion of it ; and, still further to do away any 
remnant of ambiguity, he introduces a man of respectable 
appearance, who, lifting up a corner of the patient's drapery, 
surveys with unfeigned astonishment the newly and perfectly 
formed limb, in which he is also joined by others of the 
bystanders. Such a chain of circumstances, as Webb justly 
observes, equal to a narration in clearness, and infinitely 
superior in force, would have done honour to the inventor 
in the happiest era of painting in Greece. 

But, though no man can more sensibly feel the force of 
Raphael's extraordinary powers, I cannot agree with a cele- 
brated author, in justifying him for making the boat in the 
cartoon of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, so exceed- 
ingly too diminutive for the figures it carries. " Had this 
boat," says Richardson, " been proportioned to the figures, it 




would have filled the picture ; and had the figures been re- 
duced to a smaller scale, they would not have accorded with 
the rest of the set;" and hence he infers, that this apparent 
defect is the strongest proof of the judgment of the artist, 
in choosing the least of two evils, one of which was inevit- 
able. But, unfortunately for this certainly ingenious defence, 
both the evils might have been easily avoided, two ways ; 
first, by not bringing the whole of the boat into the picture ; 
and secondly, which would have been the most masterly, by 
giving a foreshortened view of it, in which case it would 
have appeared of the proper capacity, without occupying 
more space on the canvas than it does at present. This, 
and a few other trifling errors, such as his making a house 
on fire in the back ground of one cartoon, and the introduc- 
tion of a naked child in the foreground of another, may be 
mentioned, not as detracting anything from the superlative 
merits of Raphael, against which, had they been ten times 
more numerous, they would be but as dust in the balance, 
but merely to show that no authority, however gigantic, 
ought to be made a cover to negligence, or a sanction to 

The study of excellent works of every class, and, more 
particularly, of such as I have been mentioning, is a certain 
way to improve, if not to create, an inventive faculty; and 
I have no doubt that a person comparatively poor in natural 
gifts, who steadily pursues his purpose, and makes use of all 
the means open to him, would soon eclipse the strongest in 
native ability who neglects them, and trusts to himself 
alone ; — which, after all, would be an attempt as ridiculous 
as arrogant — for, whether we wish it or no, nine hundred 
and ninety- nine out of a thousand of our thoughts are 
necessarily suggested by the w r orks of others. 

Lecture III. — On Chiaroscuro. 

In reading the history of painting, the pride of an English- 
man cannot fail to be mortified while he observes that the 
encouragement of the art has, till very lately, been 6olely 



opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

confined to the continent ; that we hear nothing of British 
schools, establishments, painters, or patrons ; that all writers 
on the subject seem to consider the hyperborean fogs of 
England as completely inimical and impervious to the rays 
of taste ; and that, however justly we may boast our su- 
periority in some points, the country has hitherto been forced 
to allow its deficiency in the most refined branch of civilisa- 
tion, and content itself with a very subordinate rank among 
those who have aspired to the patronage of the fine arts. 

Considering the energy of the British character, and the 
distinguished importance of the nation in the scale of Europe, 
can we wonder that this extreme deficiency, in points so 
essential to national honour, should have given rise to many 
contemptuous remarks, and much vain speculation, respect- 
ing the causes of it ? But whatever the causes may be (and, 
doubtless, they cannot be derived from any creditable source), 
the assertions of Winckelmann, Abbe du Bos, and others, that 
the nation which has produced a Bacon, a Newton, a Milton, 
and a Shakspere, is naturally incapable of succeeding in 
painting, are an insult to common sense, originating in con- 
ceit, malice, or a confirmed stupidity, only to be equalled by 
the folly of another set of good-natured continental philo- 
sophers, who, confining taste to certain parallels, discover 
the genius of nations by a map and a pair of compasses, 
and wisely determine that no country situated in a higher 
latitude than fifty degrees north can succeed in the cultiva- 
tion of the arts. Such puerilities deserve no answer. The 
causes that first obstructed, and perhaps still, in some degree, 
continue to retard, the progress of the arts in this island, 
are, by an ingenious writer, clearly proved to be the Re- 
formation, and its immediate consequences.* In throwing ofi: 
the Roman yoke, with all its impositions and superstitions, 
the nation unfortunately mistook reverse of wrong for right, 
and, because the arts were respected and patronised at Rome, 
rashly concluded that therefore they were certainly of a 
diabolical origin, and ought to be held up as objects of 
peculiar aversion and abhorrence to all true believers. 
Hence painting, in England, denied all public support, every 
noble use of it prohibited, and every source of encourage- 

* See Barry's " Inquiry, &c." on this subject. Works, 1809, vol* ii W. 




ment to its higher branches effectually dammed up, sunk 
into mere portraiture, the parasite of personal vanity, and 
was condemned for centuries to " flatter fools and chronicle 
small beer." 

Happily this intolerable bigotry is now nearly extinct, 
and a lover of painting is no longer in danger of being con- 
sidered as an idolator ; but, though taste revives, and the 
arts begin to be received on a more respectable footing, it 
must still be confessed that little or no attempt has yet been 
made to rectify past errors, and do away this national oppro- 
brium. Our halls and public buildings, instead of having 
their walls made the records of the virtues and heroic ac- 
tions of our ancestors, and the oracles of philosophy, pa- 
triotism, and humanity, still remain barren and desolate ; 
and our churches and temples destitute of all appropriate 
ornament corresponding to the magnificence of the archi- 
tecture, appear more like prisons, or the dreary haunts of 
perturbed spirits, than places of worship for a devout, ele- 
gant, and enlightened people. 

That this has been the case, though it must be lamented, 
it cannot, perhaps, be wondered at ; but that this should $&7£ 
be the case — notwithstanding the growth of taste and more 
liberal opinions, notwithstanding the foundation of the 
Royal Academy, and the spirited example of the first indi- 
vidual in the country, — notwithstanding the generous offer 
of the English artists, some years ago, to decorate St. Paul's 
cathedral at their ow r n expense*, and notwithstanding they 
have proved the practicability of raising the British cha- 
racter, in regard to the arts, as high as it justly stands in all 
other respects, by their having become the first school at 
present in Europe, on the mere scraps, offals, and dog's-meat 

* This project was frustrated, as is well known, by Dr. Terrick, then 
bishop of London. Dr. Newton, bishop of Bristol and dean of St. Paul's, 
was favourable to the scheme, hut when he applied to Dr. Terrick for 
his consent — " the old bishop," says Northcote, u patiently heard him 
to the end of his speech, when, assuming a very grave countenance, he 
replied, ' My good Lord Bishop of Bristol, I have already been distantly 
and imperfectly informed of such an affair having been in contemplation ; 
but as the sole power at last remains with myself, I therefore inform your 
lordship, that whilst I live and have the power, I will never suffer the 
doors of the metropolitan church to be opened for the introduction of 
Popery into it.'" — Life of Sir J. Reynolds, i. 309. — W. 

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[lect. m. 

of patronage, afforded by hungry speculators, or falling by 
chance from the old masters' tables, — this is to be won- 
dered at And, taking also the opulence of the nation into 
the consideration, in addition to all other circumstances, I 
cannot but think the apathy of the public in regard to the 
arts is a something not easy to be accounted for. I hasten, 
therefore, to dismiss the subject, lest, on a further view, I 
should become an apostate to myself, and go over to the 
opinions of those shallow continental critics, whom I have 
just been attempting to hold up to ridicule and contempt. 

One cause, however, of the discouragement of English art 
I will mention, which, though not to be charged with the 
whole, certainly contributes very considerably to the weight of 
the evil ; that is, the vast and continual influx of old pictures 
into every part of the kingdom, more than nine-tenths of 
which, to the eye of true taste, offer nothing but a battered 
mediocrity, or worse, bad originals, and bad copies of bad 
originals, smoked, varnished, and puffed into celebrity by 
interested dealers and ignorant connoisseurs, and sold for 
sums that would have astonished the artists under whose 
names they are fraudulently passed*; to the utter starvation 
of all national attempts at excellence, which it is the busi- 
ness of these people to obstruct and decry, lest the public 
should, by degrees, become enlightened, and their property 
and markets be lost. I would not be illiberal ; amongst these 
importers and dealers there are, no doubt, some who are well 
intentioned, who think they are rendering their country a 
service, by the introduction of works capable of exciting the 
dormant genius of their countrymen, and serving them as 
models for study and improvement : peace to all such ! It 
is proper, however, to tell them, that this is mere galvanic 
encouragement ; it may excite a few convulsive twitches, 
but will never inspire the arts with life and efficient activity. 
They should also be informed, that it is practice, and not 
models, which the artists of this country stand in need of ; 

* TJiis traffic has now arrived at an extent that would have astonished 
even Opie. During the last few years the old pictures imported into 
London have exceeded an average of 1000 per month, most of which are 
copies. This copying is carried to that extreme in Italy, that many artists 
s»l*sist entirely by repeatedly copying the same, at most three or four, 
pictures, or probably by copying even a single picture only. — W. 




and that he who employs the humblest artist in the humblest 
way of history, contributes more to the advancement of na- 
tional genius, than he that imports a thousand chefs d'ceuvres, 
the produce of a foreign land. Let us, then, hear no more 
of dealers as patrons of art ! They are no true votaries : 
they are but buyers and sellers in the temple of Taste, and, 
when the deity himself comes, will be driven forth with 
ignominy and stripes. 

Before I quit this ungrateful theme, candour requires me 
to state, that opinions differ even on this subject. It has 
lately, to my great surprise, been discovered, that in no age 
or country have the arts been so splendidly and liberally 
encouraged as in England ; that all proper stimulus has 
here been applied to exertion ; that no artist has wanted 
employment but through his own demerits ; and that all 
complaints and remonstrances are neither more nor less than 
libels on the nation. Hear this ; injured, but immortal, 
shades of Hogarth, Wilson, Barry, Proctor, and many 
others equalled with you in fate! — of Hogarth, who was 
compelled to dispose of works of infinite, and till then un- 
known and unimagined excellence, by the disgraceful modes 
of raffle or auction ; and who, in his ironical way, gave his 
opinion on the point in question, by dedicating one of his 
most beautiful prints to the King of Prussia, a patron of 
the arts ; — of Wilson, who, though second to no name of 
any school or country in classical and heroic landscape, 
succeeded with difficulty, by pawning some of his works at 
the age of seventy, in procuring ten guineas, to carry him to 
die in unhonoured and unnoticed obscurity in Wales ; — and 
of Barry, who, scorning to prostitute his talents to por- 
traiture or paper-staining, was necessitated, after the most 
unparalleled exertions, and more than monastic privations, 
to accept of charitable contribution ; and at last received 
his death-stroke at a sixpenny ordinary ! It may, however, 
afford some consolation and some hope, to observe, that the 
public felt for Barry, that they acknowledged his abilities, 
subscribed readily to his necessities, and at least did 

" Help to bury whom they help'd to starve." 

Here I cannot but observe with pleasure, that, since the 

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[lect. in. 

above remarks were written, an event of a highly satisfactory- 
nature has taken place, which every lover of the arts and 
his country must hail w T ith heart-felt satisfaction. 

Richardson, in his excellent treatise on the Theory of 
Painting, declares he has no doubt that the time is fast ap- 
proaching when many English names will be found worthy 
to stand high in the list of modern artists ; and in another 
place he says, " I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, 
but in considering the necessary concatenation of causes and 
effects, and in judging by some few visible links of the chain, 
I feel assured, that, if ever the true taste of the ancients 
revives in full vigour and purity, it will be in England." 
However visionary this expectation might have appeared in 
the author's lifetime, the first part has already proved well- 
founded : the names of Reynolds, Gainsborough, Wilson, 
Hogarth, Barry, and many others, would undoubtedly do 
honour to any modern school. Their works have for ever 
decided the question respecting the capacity of the English 
for excelling in painting ; and the enthusiasm with which 
their success has inspired their successors, joined to the cir- 
cumstance to which I just now alluded, the establishment of 
the British Institution, gives us abundant reason to hope 
that the full accomplishment of Richardson's prophecy will 
not long be delayed. The efforts of a powerful and patriotic 
body, composed of the first in rank, taste, knowledge, influ- 
ence, and liberality, if properly directed, cannot fail of suc- 
cess. On them, therefore, every eye is turned, with a grateful 
confidence, that measures will speedily be adopted to put the 
hitherto neglected arts on a firm and respectable basis, to 
disseminate their principles, and forward the cultivation of 
them, in that style, and on that scale, best suited to their dig- 
nity and importance, best calculated to confer honour on the 
country, and hasten that desired period, when on this, as on 
every other ground, we may see, 

" Britain, conscious of her claim, 
Stand emulous of Greek and Roman fame." 

After drawing, which I have already treated of as the 
only proper and stable foundation of the art, the next most 
important requisite towards obtaining the true representation 
of natural appearances, is the application of light and shadow, 




or rather, what the Italians understand by the term chiaro- 
scuro, which includes not only light and shadow, as it affects 
each separate part, but the proper division and distribution 
of the whole surface of a picture into bright or dark masses, 
whether the darkness be produced by shadow, or by the 
proper colour of some of the objects represented. A black 
horse, or a black cloak, a brown, a deep red, or deep blue 
object, for instance, will be part of the obscure of a picture, 
even though it be painted as with the light falling on it. By 
light and shadow all objects, and parts of objects, are made 
to project or recede, to strike or retire, to court or to shun 
the attention of the spectator, agreeably to truth and pro- 
priety. What, as a mere drawing, was flat, tame, and mo- 
notonous, by the aid of this principle bursts forth at once 
into roundness and reality ; entire figures are detached from 
their ground, seem surrounded by air, and spring forward to 
meet the eye with all the energy of life. Thus the painting 
of a Venus, by an ancient artist, was said to start from the 
canvas, as if she wished to be pursued. It gives depth, and 
marks the various distances of objects one behind another; 
and, if drawing be the giver of form, light and shadow must 
be allowed to be the creator of body and space. 

In addition to this, if properly managed, it contributes 
infinitely to expression and sentiment; it lulls by breadth 
and gentle gradation, strikes by contrast, and rouses by ab- 
rupt transition. All that is grave, impressive, awful, mys- 
terious, sublime, or dreadful in nature, is nearly connected 
with it. All poetical scenery, real or imaginary, " of forests 
and enchantments drear," where more is meant than is ex- 
pressed ; all the effects of solemn twilight and visionary 
obscurity, that flings half an image on the aching sight ; all 
the terrors of storm and the horrors of conflagration, — are 
indebted to it for representation on canvas. It is the me- 
dium of enchanting softness and repose in the works of some 
painters, and the vehicle by which others have risen to 
sublimity, in spite of the want of almost every other excel- 
lence. In allusion to these known and acknowledged effects, 
the magic of light and shade is become a proverb. 

The power of expressing the simple effects of light on de- 
tached objects may easily be acquired by drawing and shading 
after nature ; but the knowledge of chiaroscuro, in its gene- 

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[lect. in. 

ral acceptation (consisting, as I have already observed, in the 
proper division of the whole surface of a picture into light 
or dark masses, with the connecting gradations of middle 
tint, local colour, and reflexes), can only be learnt by joining 
to practice a scientific observation of the more enlarged 
phenomena of nature, and a thorough investigation of the 
works of those masters who have excelled in this important 
branch of the art. 

By scientific observation, it is not to be understood that a 
painter must necessarily be profoundly versed in optics : a 
general knowledge of its leading principles will be sufficient. 
He must consider this science, like anatomy, as a ?nea??s, not 
as an end ; otherwise he may waste his time in acquiring 
what will be of little or no value to him, instead of applying 
all his strength in the proper direction. He must be un- 
wearied in observing nature in reference to his art, in watch- 
ing all her effects, and in considering how they may be 
applied to relieve, vary, and enliven the different parts of 
his compositions, not only in regard to pleasing the eye, but 
also in respect to the mind and feelings, as they tend to in- 
spire gaiety, to infuse melancholy, or awaken terror. 

By studying the works of the great masters of chiaroscuro, 
he will, by degrees, become acquainted with all the artifices 
of contrasting light to shade, and colour to colour, to produce 
rilievo ; of joining light objects together, and dark objects 
together in masses, in order to produce splendour and breadth 
of effect; of gradually sinking some objects wholly or partly 
in shadow, and losing their outlines in the ground, to produce 
softness and harmony ; and of making, in other places, abrupt 
breaks and sharp transitions, to produce vivacity and spirit. 
He will also learn their rules for shaping their masses, and 
of adapting them, in regard to force or softness, to the nature 
of the subject, whether grave or gay, sublime, melancholy, 
or terrible. By this he must be directed when to give his 
light the form of a globe, or when to send it in a stream 
across his canvas; when to make a dark mass on a light 
ground, or a light mass on a dark ground ; when he may let 
his light die away by imperceptible gradations; when to 
diffuse it in greater breadth and abundance ; and when it 
may more properly be concentrated into one vivid flash. 

These are some of the most approved methods of conduct- 




ing the chiaroscuro, the ends of which, as may be inferred 
from what I have already said, are three : — first, by dividing 
the surface of the picture into light and dark masses, to 
please the eye, and prevent that confusion and perplexity 
incident to its being attracted by too great a number of parts 
of equal importance at once ; secondly, to relieve or push 
into notice the principal objects, and to keep others in proper 
subjection, or sink them into obscurity, according to their 
several degrees of consequence or use in the composition ; 
and lastly, by the manner of it, to aid expression, and give 
the first impression of the nature and predominant sentiment 
of the piece. But whether, in conformity to the prevailing 
passion, the shadows roll in midnight masses, enveloping the 
greater part of the picture, or are so faint as to be scarcely 
perceptible ; whether they break with abrupt violence, or 
sweetly and gently steal upon the sight ; whether they are 
warned and enlivened by reflexes, or preserve a sullen and 
uniform breadth; — one quality they should never, under 
any circumstances, be without, and that is transparency, 
which, at the same time that it is indispensable, is, unfortu- 
nately, one of the greatest practical difficulties of the art. Of 
that which depends on delicacy of eye, dexterity of hand, 
and practical knowledge of the materials, little, of course, can 
be explained by words ; but every one will easily perceive, 
by experiment, and by study of the works of others, that a 
dark colour, laid thin upon a light one, will generally appear 
clear and pleasant, but that a light colour, laid thin upon a 
dark one, is almost always opaque and disagreeable. Hence 
the most efficacious way of preserving the transparency of 
shadows is to paint them rather faint at first, and give them 
their full warmth and depth by a second operation. 

The chiaroscuro of a picture does not, however, depend 
on lights and shadows merely. Hot and cold, bright and 
dark colours, start from and avoid one another, with nearly 
as much vivacity as light from shadow ; but a composition, 
painted entirely on this principle, will necessarily be feeble 
and flimsy, from the want of roundness and depth, which it 
is the property of shadow alone to bestow. Good pictures 
must partake of both principles, leaning to the opposition of 
colours in subjects of a gay, and to the opposition of light 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. in. 

and shadow in subjects of a graver or grander cast.* But, 
whatever be your subject, let your principal mass of light 
maintain its pre-eminence in size and splendour, like the 
centre of the system, from which all the others emanate, and 
by which they are all supported. Let the inferior ones be 
diversified in shape and quantity as much as possible ; for 
equal quantities and similar shapes always produce hesitation 
and perplexity, unless the reason for it be immediately ob- 
vious ; and, in addition to this, let your masses, if possible, 
lie somewhat in an oblique or diagonal direction with respect 
to each other, by which they will appear to fall more natu- 
rally into the stream of light, and, consequently, be more 
pleasing to the eye. 

I would be far from recommending or countenancing a 
careless or inaccurate manner of handling ; but, whilst I 
allow the necessity of your attention to the detail of your 
performances, I feel it my duty also to caution you not to 
neglect the general effect, and call upon you to remember, 
that, unless a breadth of light and shadow be preserved, 
invention loses half its force, drawing half its value, and the 
utmost finishing will be labour in vain. 

I Every man in every profession must frequently find 
himself compelled to listen to common-place opinions on the 
subject of it, copied from author to author, and bandied from 
critic to critic, without sufficient examination. Among others 
of this description, concerning painting, I have often heard 
it dogmatically asserted, that the light of a picture must 
necessarily be all derived from the same source ; and, conse- 
quently, that two rays or streams should never cross each 
other, nor the shadows be seen to fall in opposite directions. 
This opinion I have no hesitation in pronouncing a vulgar 
error, wholly unfounded in nature, and therefore likely to be 
mischievous in art. 

In nature, particularly in the interior of buildings and 
other confined situations, lights will be often observed flow- 
ing from different and opposite sources ; and the works of 

* Rubens depends too much on opposition of colours. 

f The following passage, as far as to "management of his chiaroscuro," 
was found on a loose paper lying at this part of the discourse, and is 
therefore here inserted. — Note of Prince Iloare, the original editor of these 




the great masters must quickly convince all who study them, 
that, in art, provided the effects of them be truly represented, 
and the masses that compose the chiaroscuro of the picture 
be kept undisturbed and unbroken, the painter is at perfect 
liberty to introduce his lights in different directions, which, 
if well managed and properly accounted for, will be so far 
from creating confusion, that, on the contrary, they may im- 
part to his composition a richness, splendour, and vivacity, 
unattainable by any other means. 

I mention this to free the student from the weight of un- 
necessary shackles; but I would by no means recommend 
his attempting the use of light in two or more directions, till 
he has acquired a thorough knowledge of its effects in its 
most simple mode, and a competent skill in the management 
of his chiaroscuro. 

It is not one of the least remarkable circumstances in the 
history of the art, that shadow, though the inseparable com- 
panion of light, the only criterion to the eye of roundness 
and projection, and, in its effects, no less pleasing than sur- 
prising, should have continued unknown and unnoticed for 
ages, by the Indians, the Persians, and the Egyptians anciently, 
and by the Chinese even to the present day.* The fact, how- 
ever, seems indisputable ; and some have even gone so far as 
to assert, that the Greeks were, equally with their neigh- 
bours, ignorant of this fascinating branch of the art ; but for 
this calumny there appears not the shadow of a foundation : 
the works of their poets, orators, and philosophers abound 
with allusions to, and passages in the most lively manner 
describing, its effects. Longinus observes, that if we place, 
in parallel lines on the same plane, a bright and an obscure 
colour, the former springs forward and appears much nearer 
the eye : this is the first and simplest effect of the laws of 
chiaroscuro. Philostratus also tells us that Zeuxis, Polyg- 
notus, and Euphranor, were, above all things, attentive to 
shade happily their figures f; and hence it was, no doubt, that 

* See note on this subject, ante, p. 241 . — W. 

f Not exactly; the inference is hardly justified : the passage of Philos- 
tratus alluded to, is a vague sentence, which means anything or, rather, 
nothing. He says (in vita Apollonii, ii. 9.), that the works of these 
painters displayed rb evcicioi> Kal to zvttvovv koL to slusxov Te kcl\ ^e'^or, 
that is, every possible effect — the obscure or shaded, the clear or airy, the 
retiring and the prominent — WV 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

the paintings of Parrhasius were termed realities, being pos- 
sessed of such a force of chiaroscuro as no longer to appear 
the imitations of tilings, but the things themselves.* Agree- 
able to this is the observation of an ancient writer, that, in 
painting, the contours of objects should be blended with, and 
sometimes lost in, the shade ; for on this, joined to colouring, 
depend tenderness, roundness, and the similitude to truth. 
Nicias, the Athenian, is also praised by Pliny for his know- 
ledge in this branch of the art. He preserved the lights 
and shades, and was particularly careful that his paintings 
should project from the canvas. But the greatest effect of 
this kind is, by the same author, attributed to the pencil of 
Apelles : — "In his portrait of Alexander in the character 
of Jupiter," says Pliny, " the fingers seem to shoot forward, 
and the lightning to be out of the picture." This passage is 
too striking to need a comment. What more could we say 
of the finest examples of modern art ? What more could 
we expect from the pencil even of Rembrandt or of Rey- 
nolds !f 

These quotations, to which innumerable others of equal 
weight might be added, are sufficient to rescue the Greeks from 
any imputation of ignorance on this head, were we not also 
in possession of ancient paintings which, though not of that, 
kind in which we ought to expect examples of the first class 
certainly contain merit enough to set the matter in question 
beyond dispute. 

In the history of modern art, we find, as might be expected 
from what has just been stated, that design and colouring 

* Apollodorus of Athens, the contemporary of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, 
was called the Shadower (o ^,iciaypd(f)os — Hesychius, s. v.). He may be 
termed the inventor of chiaroscuro among the Greeks, as Leonardo da 
Vinci was among the moderns. Dionysius of Colophon, the contempo- 
rary of Polygnotus, was, however, also distinguished for his effective 
light and shade, but probably for mere light and shade ; the works of his 
successor, Apollodorus, were conspicuous for the more perfect develop- 
ment of chiaroscuro, in which the natural gradations and reflexes of the 
colours themselves also were given. See Plutarch, de Glor. Aihen. 2. and 
Timol 36. — W. 

f This was the " Alexander Ceraunophorus," or Alexander wielding 
the Lightnings of Jupiter, which was dedicated in the temple of Diana at 
Ephesus, and for which Alexander gave Apelles nearly 50,000/. sterling. 
See the article on Apelles in the Biog. Diet, of the Soc. for Dif. U. K — W. 




take the lead considerably. Two hundred years elapsed from 
the time of Cimabue, with whom the modern accounts com- 
mence, to the time of Leonardo da Vinci, during which the 
succession of painters is complete, and a regular gradation of 
improvement noticed ; yet we find no mention of effects of 
light and shadow, and if any attempts of that kind were 
made, we must conclude they were so faint and ineffectual 
as not to deserve observation, till the last-mentioned painter, 
whose character I have dwelt on in a former lecture, broke 
at once entirely through, and trampled under foot, the timid, 
flat, dry, and meagre manner of his predecessors, and taught 
his contemporaries and posterity to give rilievo and effect to 
their compositions, by a novel and daring opposition of light 
and shade. From him the surprising discovery was caught 
by Giorgione del Castelfranco, and carried to Venice, where, 
united to a new style of colouring, it rapidly spread its fasci- 
nation, and became the foundation of the excellence of the 
Venetian school. 

Chiaroscuro and colouring, being but varied effects of the 
same medium, assimilate so kindly together, that, since the 
time of their junction at Venice, no school, and scarcely any 
individual artist, has existed who has been eminent in one of 
those branches, without at the same time possessing consi- 
derable excellence in the other. 

By this union, aided by the introduction of oil painting, 
which supplies, through the medium of glazing, richer, 
deeper, and more perfect shadows and tones than any other 
method, the Venetians were enabled to give that clearness, 
force, rilievo — in short, that perfect illusion which amounted, 
in their limited conceptions of the subject, to a complete 
representation of nature. I say, their limited conceptions, 
because, though "the gorgeous East, with richest hand," 
showered pearls and gold into the lap of Venice (and paint- 
ing was, in consequence, liberally and enthusiastically encou- 
raged), she possessed no remains of antique sculpture to 
elevate the imaginations of her artists, generate ideas of true 
beauty, and lead them to attempt combinations of greater 
purity and consistency than are to be met with in ordinary 
life. Acquainted more with Asiatic luxury than with Grecian 
taste, the painters of Venice sought rather for magnificence 
than grandeur, are more remarkable for splendour than for 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

elegance, and possess more truth of effect than refinement of 
character in their works. 

Correctness of design being in no wise necessary to illusion, 
was, of course, neither attempted nor thought of by them; 
and painting, under their tuition, instead of speaking an 
universal language, equally intelligible to all nations and in 
all ages, only learned to speak with surprising volubility her 
mother -tongue. It cannot be denied that they painted nature ; 
but it was nature in its every-day dress, disfigured by acci- 
dent, unchosen, unimproved, and " sent to its account with 
all its imperfections on its head." 

Of the works of Giorgione, the real founder of the Venetian 
school, there are many specimens now existing in this coun- 
try, which, for harmony of colour, and depth of tone, are still 
deservedly objects of great admiration, and prove him to 
have excelled his master Da Vinci in these qualities, as much 
as he was himself afterwards exceeded by Titian.* 

His genius, indeed, was such, that, had he not been cut off 
by the plague at the early age of thirty-two, it is not probable 
that he would ever have been outstripped by his more fortu- 
nate rival and companion. 

As Titian, though a great master of chiaroscuro, was still 
more eminent for colouring, I shall reserve his character to 
be particularly discussed under that head, and pass on to the 
consideration of the merits of the Lombard school, at the top 
of which stands the name of Antonio Allegri, commonly 
called, from the place of his birth, Correggio. Of this extra- 
ordinary man, who, to use the words of Milton — 

" Untwisted all the strings that tie 
The hidden soul of harmony," — 

the accounts which are transmitted to us are more confused, 
contradictory, and uncertain than those of any other painter 
of eminence. His age, the times of his birth and death, and 
most of the circumstances of his life, are enveloped in an 
obscurity which seems to increase with every attempt at its 

By some we are told that he was born, bred, and lived in 

* That Giorgione adopted his style of light and shade from the works 
of Leonardo da Vinci at Milan is a mere conjecture, yet it is Loth possi- 
ble and probable. Giorgione died in 151 1, in his thirty -fourth year. — W. 




poverty and wretchedness, and that he died at the age of 
forty, from the fatigue of carrying home a sack of halfpence, 
or copper money, paid him for one of his grandest works ; 
and we are called upon to admire and respect a genius who, 
against the ordinary course of things — without having seen 
Rome, the works of the ancients, or those of the great paint- 
ers, his contemporaries ; without favour or protection, or 
going from home to seek them — in straitened circumstances, 
and with no other helps than his own industry, the contem- 
plation of nature, and the affection he had for his art, has 
produced works of a sublime kind, both for thought and exe- 

On the other hand, Mengs, his most devoted admirer, who 
made every possible inquiry concerning him, contends that 
he was of a good family, and lived in opulence; that he had 
every advantage of education, both general and professional ; 
that he had been at Rome and Florence, and had, conse- 
quently, seen the works of Da Yinci, Michelangelo, and 
Raphael ; that he studied philosophy, mathematics, painting, 
sculpture, and architecture, and conversed familiarly with 
the most famous professors of his time.* 

Though this latter opinion seems to be founded on but a 
questionable authority, I own I am inclined to adopt it in a 
great degree, as, to any attentive examiner of the works of 
Correggio, the former account must appear absolutely incre- 
dible. The evidence of his works would lead one to conclude 
that he had not only seen those of the last mentioned painters, 
but also the works of Titian, and that he had borrowed the 
elements of light and shade from the first, something of the 
grandeur of his contour from the second, and colouring from 
the last ; to which he superadded qualities peculiarly his 
own, and formed a style, which, though less learned in de- 
sign than that of Michelangelo, and less true in colouring 
than that of Titian, infinitely exceeded Da Vinci's in force, 

* See the life of Correggio by Pungileoni, Memorie Istoriche di Anto- 
nio Allegri detto il Correggio, Parma, 1817-21, upon which is founded the 
memoir of him in the Sketches of the Lives of Correggio and Pamiigiano, 
London, 1 823. The principal facts of Correggio's life are briefly given, 
also, in the Catalogue of the National Gallery. He died of a fever at Cor- 
reggio, March 5. 1534, in his forty-first year. He does not appear to 
have ever been in poor circumstances. — W. 

304 opie's lectures. [lect. hi. 

and was, on the whole, more exquisitely captivating to the 
eye than anything that had yet appeared in the art. 

Of chiaroscuro, on the grandest scale, as it extends to 
the regulation of the whole of a work, he was certainly the 
inventor. Antecedently to him no painter had attempted, 
or even imagined the magic effect of this principle, which is 
strikingly predominant in all that remains of Correggio, from 
his widely extended cupolas to the smallest of his oil paint- 
ings : its sway was uncontrollable ; parts were enlightened, 
extended, curtailed, obscured, or buried in the deepest shade, 
in compliance with its dictates ; and whatever interfered 
(even correctness of form, propriety of action, and charac- 
teristic attitude) was occasionally sacrificed. 

To describe his practice, will be, in a great degree to repeat 
my observations on chiaroscuro in its enlarged sense. By 
classing his colours, and judiciously dividing them into few 
and large masses of bright and obscure, gently rounding off 
his light, and passing, by almost imperceptible degrees, 
through pellucid demi-tints and warm reflections, into broad, 
deep, and transparent shade, he artfully connected the fiercest 
extremes of light and shadow, harmonised the most intense 
opposition of colours, and combined the greatest possible 
effect with the sweetest and softest repose imaginable. The 
same principle of easy gradation seems to have operated as 
his guide in respect to design, as well as in colouring and 
chiaroscuro. By avoiding straight lines, sharp angles, all 
abrupt breaks, sudden transitions, and petty inflexions, and 
running by gentle degrees from convex to concave, and 
vice versa, together with the adoption of such forms and 
attitude as admitted this practice in the highest degree, he 
gave his figures that ease, elegance, and flexibility, that in- 
imitable grace, which, in honour of the inventor, has since 
obtained the appellation of Gorreggiesque. 

This rare union of grace, harmony and effect, forms the 
skill of Correggio, which, whilst it operates, suspends judg- 
ment, and disarms criticism. Entranced and overcome by 
pleasing sensation, the spectator is often compelled to forget 
incorrectness of drawing and deficiency of . expression and 
character. These defects, however, it lias already been ob- 
served, are but occasional ; and though, in comparing him 
with Raphael, it may justly be said, that the one painted best 




the effects of body, and the other those of mind, it must 
also be acknowledged that modesty, sweetness, and the effu- 
sions of maternal tenderness have never been more forcibly 
expressed than by the pencil of Correggio. 

The turn of his thoughts, also, in regard to particular 
subjects, was often, in the highest degree, poetical and un- 
common ; of which it will be sufficient to give, as an instance, 
his celebrated Notte, or painting of the Nativity of Christ, 
in which the circumstance of his making all the light of the 
picture emanate from the child, striking upward on the beau- 
tiful face of the mother, and, in all directions, on the sur- 
rounding objects, may challenge comparison with any in- 
vention in the whole circle of art, both for the splendour 
and sweetness of the effect, which nothing can exceed, and 
for its happy appropriation to the person of Him who was 
born to dispel the clouds of ignorance, and diffuse the light 
of truth over a darkened world ! 

This circumstance, at once sublime, beautiful, and pic- 
turesque, is one of those rare instances of supreme felicity, 
by which a man may be said to be lost in his own glory. 
The thought has been seized with such avidity, and produced 
so many imitations, that no one is accused of plagiarism : 
the real author is forgotten, and the public, habituated to 
consider the incident as naturally a part of the subject, have 
long ceased to inquire when or by whom it was invented.* 

From Correggio, in pursuing the progress of chiaro- 
scuro, we naturally turn our attention to the Carracci, the 
founders of the Bolognese school, who, though not absolutely 
equal to their great predecessor in chiaroscuro, excelled him in 
design, and perhaps in some other branches of the art. Lo- 
dovico, in particular, is highly and justly extolled for the 
modest breadth, and affecting simplicity, of his style, and 
pointed out by Sir Joshua Reynolds, as the best model for 
that dignified tone, that solemn ttuilig/tt, so productive of 
sentiment, and so properly and exclusively suited to all sub- 
jects of a grave, philosophical, or religious character. 

Lodovico, with his two cousins, Annibal and Agostino 

* The invention of Correggio was in its application ; for a very similar 
idea was previously adopted by Raphael, in one of the compartments of 
the Vatican fresco of St. Peter delivered from Prison — the light proceeds 
from the angel. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

Carracci, attempted, by selecting the beauties, supplying the 
defects, correcting the errors, and avoiding the extremes of 
their predecessors, to unite all the excellencies of the art, 
and form a perfect style : a plan, which has been derided 
by some eminent critics, as absurd, visionary, and imprac- 
ticable ; but as they have neglected to show wherein the 
different merits of the different schools are incompatible 
with each other, so they have failed to convince me that 
the attempt to reconcile them was ill-judged, and tended, 
directly or indirectly, to mediocrity and the extinction of 
character. What if the Carracci have not completely suc- 
ceeded ? What if they be, in some degree, inferior to each 
of those whom they proposed to imitate in his particular 
way? — to Michelangelo in design, to Raphael in expres- 
sion, to Titian in colour, and to Correggio in force and 
harmony of chiaroscuro ? The combination, as far as it goes, 
is excellent; and that it is not more so is, undoubtedly, owing 
to nothing absurd in the attempt, but to insufficiency of ability 
to carry it properly into execution. For where is the 
proof that all the different beauties of art are not in perfect 
unison with each other ? That the whole is more difficult 
to grasp than a part, is not to be denied ; but let us beware 
of making our feebleness the measure of possibility. Had 
there been more correctness in the drawing, more elevation 
in the character, and more truth in the expressions of the 
celebrated picture by Correggio just mentioned, can it 
be supposed that its effect would therefore have been less 
splendid and fascinating ? and had the Transfiguration, by 
Raphael, partaken more of Michelangelo's grand style of 
design, and of the breadth and splendour of Correggio's 
chiaroscuro, which the subject seems particularly to de- 
mand, can it be supposed that these excellencies would have 
lessened in any degree the truth of expression which it now 
possesses, and that it would therefore have become insipid ? 
Can it be supposed that The Hours leading out the Horses 
of the Sun, painted by Julio Romano, would have been less 
poetical and celestial, had they possessed more harmony, 
brilliancy, and truth of colouring ? Yet this has been sup- 
posed, and by a writer whose name I revere, and whose 
works will be an honour to this country as long as taste and 
genius continue to attract admiration. But though I respect 




him much, I respect truth more, which I think will bear me 
out in maintaining the contrary opinion. Celestial objects, 
according to our conceptions of them, differ from terrestrial 
ones, not in essence but in beauty, not in principle but in 
power ; and our representations of them should possess all 
the splendour and effect, as well as all the vigour, spirit, and 
elevation of character, possible. To a certain portion of spirit 
and character it was doubtless owing that, in spite of, and 
not by the aid of defects, Julio Romano's horses became ob- 
jects of admiration ; and, had these excellencies been joined 
to the others with which they are always associated in our 
minds, the effect of the work must have been proportionally 
greater, and it would have consequently stood still higher in 
the scale of art. 

Such paradoxical opinions cannot be too closely exa- 
mined, as they tend directly to arrest the progress of art, 
and prevent those attempts, by which alone perfection must 
(if ever) be obtained. For what is perfection but the com- 
plete union of all parts of the art, and, if they are incom- 
patible, what have we to hope for ? 

But the Carracci do not stand in need of arguments in 
behalf of their principles, while such a work exists as that 
(which all must remember) of The Three Marys Weeping over 
the Body of Christ* ; in which are actually combined the ex- 
cellencies of drawing, chiaroscuro, colouring, composition, 
and expression, each to a degree which we have seldom seen 
surpassed ; and, had it possessed a corresponding dignity 
and beauty of character, I should not hesitate to place it at 
least on a level with the first productions of modern art. 

This picture alone sufficiently justifies the rationality of 
those gigantic attempts which, had they been completely 
successful, would have involved the names of the proudest 
predecessors of the Carracci in comparative obscurity ; this 
answers all objections to their plan, affords a complete evi- 
dence of its practicability, and warrants the hope of its 
being, at some future period, carried more effectually into 

The deep-toned sobriety of the Carracci was quickly fol- 
lowed by the meteor-like glare of [Michelangelo da] Cara- 

* By Lodovico Carracci, and now at Castle Howard. — W. 
x 2 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

vaggio, who, from love of novelty, or an insatiable desire of 
force, too frequently disjointed his composition, separated 
every spot of light by intense shadow, plunged at every step 
from noon-day to midnight, and, instead of conducting, tore 
his chiaroscuro to rags : his, indeed, is not so properly 
chiaroscuro, as light and shadow run mad. 

By his want of connecting demi-tints, and reflected lights, 
and total neglect of every kind of gradation, he missed all 
the unity, harmony, and grace so delightful in Correggio. 
Hence, though he undoubtedly possessed great force, great 
boldness of penciling, and freshness and truth of colour, he 
cannot, except in very particular subjects, be safely recom- 
mended as an object for imitation. He has, nevertheless, in 
his happier moments, produced works of very considerable 
merit. His Entombing of Christ, for instance, now in the 
museum at Paris*, for chiaroscuro and composition, as 
well as the excellencies above mentioned, may challenge 
comparison with most of the productions of the Carracci ; 
and no story was ever more happily told on canvas then 
that of his Gamesters Cheating a Young Man at Cards.f 
Innocent cullibility on one part, and brutality and cunning 
on the other, cannot be more forcibly expressed ; each face is 
a volume, in which the whole history of the man, — past, 
present, and future, — is written in legible and indelible 

It must be understood that the great fault of Caravaggio 
is the want of connecting gradation, and not the depth of 
his shadows, without which, on a flat surface, what relief or 
projection can be obtained? Sir Joshua Reynolds justly 
blames his immediate predecessors, and youthful contempo- 
raries, for a mawkish insipidity, chiefly owing to a timid 
deficiency of shadow, of which, both by precept and ex- 
ample, he recommends the liberal use, as also of colours 
vividly and distinctly opposed to each other, and justifies 
himself by an appeal to the works of the greatest masters, in 
which there is generally found, in every picture, a part as 
light, and a part as dark, as possible. As a general rule, 
Sir Joshua's advice is, undoubtedly, excellent ; but it is not 

* Now in the gallery of the Vatican at Rome. — W. 
f In the gallery at Dresden. — W. 




necessary, like Bottom, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, 
and Caravaggio, to play the tyrant, and make all split on 
every occasion. On the contrary, subjects will sometimes 
occur that admit, nay, that require, a very different practice. 
An instance of this kind will readily present itself to the 
memory of every one who has seen the picture of the Deluge 
by Poussin. In this work there appears neither white nor 
black, nor blue, nor red, nor yellow : the whole mass is, with 
little variation, of a sombre grey, the true resemblance of a 
dark and humid atmosphere, by which every object is ren- 
dered indistinct and almost colourless. This is both a 
faithful and a poetical conception of the subject ; nature 
seems faint, half dissolved, and verging on annihilation, and 
the pathetic solemnity, grandeur, and simplicity of the effect, 
which can never be exceeded, is entirely derived from the 
painter's having judiciously departed from, and gone into 
direct opposition to general practice. 

That there is no rule without an exception is proverbially 
true ; and, far from contradicting it in regard to painting, I 
am inclined to believe that every subject, if properly treated, 
would require some deviation from the established laws, — 
some licence, some appropriate management peculiar to 
itself ; such as we see exemplified in the JVotte, by Correg- 
gio, and the Deluge, by Poussin. Till something of this 
kind happens we may conclude the subject has not been per- 
fectly conceived, and is open for further trials ; but, when 
the blow has once been thus happily struck, there is nothing 
left for followers but humble imitation. The style of Cara- 
vaggio astonished by its boldness, delighted by its novelty, 
and, for a time, produced many imitators, among whom we 
may reckon the celebrated names of Guido Peni, and 
Guercino da Cento, who, though they softened somewhat 
the hardness of his chiaroscuro, never equalled him in the 
freshness and clearness of his colouring. Guido, indeed, 
finding himself unequal to his model, soon quitted the 
style altogether, and adopted another in perfect opposition, 
which, though a better vehicle for mannered beauty and 
theatric grace, was as far removed by its flimsiness from 
true taste, as was that of Caravaggio by its outrageous 

, The nature of my subject requires that I should follow 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

the art from Italy into Holland, where, though its revival 
cannot by any means be said to be complete, the branch of 
which I am now treating, as also some others, was carried 
to a perfection highly deserving notice. 

To the Dutch school, all that has been said of the Venetian 
applies with double and treble force. Ugliness was beauty 
to them. They not only did not seek what was grand, ele- 
vated, and perfect, but studiously avoided it ; and climbing 
downwards with an inverted taste, seemed to delight in 
baseness and deformity, and to make them objects of pre- 
ference. In their histories they sacrificed, without mercy, all 
decorum, all propriety, all regard to costume, all beauty, 
truth, and grandeur of character. Gods, emperors, heroes, 
sages, and beauties, were all taken out of the same pot, and 
metamorphosed by one stroke of the pencil into Dutchmen. 
Noah was only the first skipper, and Abraham a fat burgo- 
master of Amsterdam. 

Yet, in spite of meanness and disproportion, in spite of 
their neglect of some rules, and their ignorance and open 
defiance of others, — how vain is judgment, criticism how 
weak ! — they have produced works, which the purest sensi- 
bility and the most refined taste cannot reject, which the 
best cultivated eye dwells on with pleasure, and by which 
we are, for a moment at least, compelled to forget that the 
art has anything of a higher class to bestow. 

There are, indeed, shallow and supercilious critics, with- 
out comprehension to take in the whole of art, without judg- 
ment to discern all the ends proposed by it, and without 
taste to relish every kind of excellence — who, with a mor- 
bid appetite, rejecting what is offered, constantly sigh for all 
that is absent, and, with eager solicitude to be displeased, 
always dwell on defects and improprieties, — who see only 
Raphael's want of colour, Titian's want of form, Correggio's 
want of expression, and Rubens' want of grace ; such, ever 
ready to flatter themselves into the belief that they possess 
exquisite taste and refined judgment, will, doubtless, think 
the Dutch school altogether beneath their notice ; but ha- 
zardous as it may be, I will venture to say, that such an 
opinion can only be pronounced by those whose judgment 
is depraved, and who are totally devoid of taste. True 
critics, who exercise the rod not from vanity but from taste, 




not from malice but affection, who can discover and discri- 
minate beauties from defects, however unhappily they may 
be mingled, will readily allow the claims of the Dutch artists 
to considerable praise. 

At the head of the Dutch school, and foremost amongst 
those who, in the opinion of some critics, cut the knot in- 
stead of untying it, and burglariously entered the Temple of 
Fame by the window, stands the name of Rembrandt, called 
VanRhyn, from his birth-place, a village on that river near 
Leyden. His father, a miller, put his son under one Last- 
man, a tolerable painter of Amsterdam ; but by what means 
he was led to adopt that peculiar manner which distin- 
guishes his works is not now to be discovered.* Of his sin- 
gularities it is, however, recorded, that he used to ridicule 
the antique and the ordinary methods of study, and that he 
had a large collection of strange dresses, old armour, and 
rich stuffs, which he called his antiques, and which it is 
obvious he] made use of as models in his principal works. 
There is, also, a story related of him, which shows him to 
have been no less a humourist than a genius; which is, that 
finding his works, at one period of his life, accumulating on 
his hands, he resolved to make a sale of them ; but, unfor- 
tunately, it seems the public in Rembrandt's time very much 
resembled the public at present, and scorned to buy the 
works of a living artist. In this dilemma he had no re- 
source but to secrete himself, pretend to be dead, put his 
wife into widow's mourning, and ordered a mock funeral. 
After this his sale went on with uncommon success ; 
when it was ended Rembrandt rose from the dead, to the 
great joy of his disconsolate wife, and received the con- 
gratulations of his friends on the happy termination of 
his excellent joke. Being, at another time, reproached 
for the boldness and roughness of his manner of laying 
on his colours, he replied, " I am a painter, and not a 

* Rembrandt Gerritz was born June 15. 1606, at his father's mill on 
the Rhine, between Leyerdorp and Koukeik near Leyden. His first 
master was Jacob Van Svvanenburg, with whom he remained three years. 
He died at Amsterdam, July 19. 1664. See the Catalogue of the A r a- 
tional Gallery W. 

x 4 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. III. 

What was so happily said of Burke, might with equal 
truth be applied to Rembrandt — 

" Whose genius was such 
That one never can praise it, or blame it too much." 

He seemed born to confound all rules and reasoning. With 
the most transcendent merits he combines the most glaring 
faults, and reconciles us to them ; he charms without beauty, 
interests without grace, and is sublime in spite of disgusting 
forms and the utmost vulgarity of character. His deficien- 
cies would have fairly annihilated any other man ; yet he 
still justly claims to be considered as a genius of the first 
class. Of chiaroscuro he ranged the whole extent, and ex- 
emplified all its effects in all its degrees, changes, and har- 
monies, from the noon-day blaze to when the 

" Dying embers round the room 

Teach light to counterfeit a gloom." 

In richness and truth of colouring, in copiousness of in- 
vention and energy of expression, he equalled the greatest 
of his predecessors, and whatever he attempted he rendered 
with a degree of truth, of reality, of illusion, that defies all 
comparison. By these powers he seemed to be independent 
of his subject ; it mattered not what he painted, his pencil, 
like the finger of Midas, turned every thing he touched to 
gold ; it made defects agreeable, gave importance to trifles, 
and begat interest in the bosom of barrenness and insipidity 

But, though thus gifted to dwell with nature in her sim- 
plest retirement, he was no less qualified, with a master's 
hand and poet's fire, to follow and arrest her in her wildest 
flights ; all that was great, striking, and uncommon in her 
scenery, was familiar to him ; yet he chiefly delighted in 
obscurity and repose; mystery and silence floated round his 
pencil, and dreams, visions, witcheries, and incantations he 
alone, with no less magic power, rendered probable, awful, 
and interesting. In short, so great and original were his 
powers, that he seems to be one who would have discovered 
the art had it never before existed. 

Rembrandt, with all his powers, is a master whom it is 
most exceedingly dangerous to imitate ; his excellencies are 


so fascinating, that we are apt first to forgive, and, lastly, to 
fall in love even with his faults, or, at least, to think the 
former cheaply purchased with the incumbrance of the latter. 
But let the student carefully remember, that the imitator of 
any individual master, like the imitator of individual nature, 
must never hope to occupy a station in the first class of 
artists ; and that defects like those of Rembrandt, and most 
of the Dutch school, even if associated with equal excellence, 
can never hope to be forgiven a second time.* 

Lecture IV. — On Colouring. 

I shall this evening proceed to the consideration of Co- 
louring, the third part of painting, which, though confes- 
sedly of inferior consequence to design and chiaroscuro, 
must yet be deemed sufficiently important to occupy a large 
share of the attention of an artist who wishes to give a cor- 
rect and an agreeable representation of nature. Hence it 
may be thought necessary, that he should study the laws of 
optics, be intimately acquainted with all the phenomena of 
reflection and refraction of light, of its composition and di- 
visibility into red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and 
violet-coloured rays, and that he should examine into the 
nature of the surfaces and textures of different bodies, by 
which they absorb, divide, transmit, or reflect light, and con- 
sequently give birth to that astonishing variety of hues, un- 
der which they are exhibited to the eye. 

These are studies which, doubtless, ought not to be alto- 
gether discouraged ; for, not to speak of the pleasure that 
must result to the artist, from his being able truly and solidly 
to account for all the various appearances of light, he cannot, 
of course, be too well acquainted with the nature and pro- 
perties of those colours, by whose instrumentality he is to 

* Rembrandt is, without doubt, the greatest master of chiaroscuro 
that has yet appeared ; he accomplished a perfect union of light and 
shade and colour, the only true elements of chiaroscuro. This subject is 
discussed at length in the Epochs of Painting already referred to, 
chapter xxx.i. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

give life and energy to his future designs. But it cannot be 
improper to inform him, that too much stress may easily be 
laid on knowledge of this kind ; Titian, Rubens, and Vandyck 
probably knew nothing of the divisibility of light, and little 
more, perhaps, of the laws of optics, than what must neces- 
sarily result from practice ; and it must reluctantly be con- 
fessed, that the rest is but remotely connected with the art, 
and that the discoveries of Newton and Berkeley, however 
sublime and beautiful, are but little calculated to assist the 
production of the sublime and beautiful in painting. 

If poets, of all times, have considered colour as one of the 
chief beauties in nature, it can be no wonder that painters 
should delight in it, and be too often inclined to overrate its 
importance. From a conviction of this general tendency it 
is, that the united voices of all teachers are lifted against the 
fascinating charms of this Cleopatra of the art, for which 
hundreds " have lost the world, and been content to lose it." 

Colouring, says a great critic, if once attained in a high 
degree, generally disdains subordination, and engrosses the 
whole attention. Those who have once gained supreme do- 
minion over the eye will hardly resign it to court the more 
coy approbation of the mind — the approbation of a few, op- 
posed to the admiration of all ! Poussin thinks that colour- 
ing needs little attention, and that practice alone will give a 
reasonable proficiency in it. Annibale Carracci delivered it 
as his opinion, that almost the whole art consisted in a good 
outline ; and Sir Joshua Reynolds, the slave and master of 
colouring, to gain which he almost lost himself, though sedu- 
lously devoted to it in practice, seems, in his writings, to 
consider it as rather detrimental, if not incompatible with 
sentiment and the grand style of art. 

The judgments of those who have failed in their attempt? 
to colour, like the fox's judgment in grnpes, may reasonably 
be suspected of proceeding from sinister motives ; but the 
judgment of him, who, from his superlative excellence in that 
branch might boldly challenge comparison witli the greatest 
masters, claims to be considered with all possible respect and 
attention. It is not, therefore, without some alarm, that I 
feel myself compelled to oppose his opinion, which to me ap- 
pears not to be founded on a clear perception of any thing 
in the nature of colouring, repugnant to expression, cha- 




racter, and sentiment, but rather drawn from the flagrant 
abuse of it by the Venetian and Flemish painters, and a sup- 
position that the deficiency of it in the works of the Romans 
and Florentines was not owing to incapacity, but to their 
rejection of its blandishments, on a conviction of their inter- 
fering with, or destroying the effect of those excellencies, to 
which they were more immediately desirous of paying at- 
tention. This is so far from being the case, that Michel- 
angelo, it is well known, was exceedingly charmed by Ti- 
tian's colouring, and very solicitous of joining, through the 
means of Sebastian del Piombo, the Venetian manner of 
painting to his own grand style of design ; and Raphael, who 
panted after perfection, put himself under Fra Bartolomeo 
for the express purpose of studying colouring, wishing to 
add to his already magnificent stock of merits all those ne- 
cessary to produce that truth and illusion, so agreeable in 
the works of many comparatively inferior masters. Hence 
I am convinced, that, far from considering it as detrimental, 
they thought it indispensable to perfection. And the au- 
thority of the ancients, which, in regard to matters of taste, 
must be considered as little short of revelation, is also evi- 
dently in favour of this opinion, since we find that, amongst 
the Greeks, Zeuxis, Parrhasius, and Apelles, their most 
famous painters, were also the most excellent colourists ; 
and, if we examine the inordinate praises bestowed on the 
last and greatest of the three, it will be found to turn chiefly 
on the beauty of his colouring ; the famous Coan Venus, 
painted by him, was the admiration of every succeeding age, 
till the time of Cicero, who marks its perfection in colour as 
approaching the truth, softness, and warmth of real flesh and 
blood.* The same artist, after this, attempted a second 
Venus, which was to have exceeded all his former produc- 
tions ; but dying before he had executed more than the head 
and breasts, no painter, we are told (such was its superlative 
excellence), could be prevailed on to attempt its completion. 

* He says (Be Nat, Bear. i. 27), the tints of the Venus Anadyomene 
are not blood, but a resemblance of blood. This celebrated picture was 
taken from ne Coans by Augustus, in lieu of 100 talents tribute : it was 
injured in the passage to Rome, and was so much decayed in the time of 
Nero, that a copy of it, by one Dorotheus, was substituted for it in the 
temple of Julius Ca;sar, by that emperor. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV, 

Now, as we must suppose, in this case, that the idea, cha- 
racter, and style of design were determined, it seems to fol- 
low, that what the artists dreaded in particular was a com- 
parison of their colouring with the truly inimitable beauty 
of his. Pliny, also, tells us of a Warrior painted by him, 
which challenged nature itself; and Propertius pays him a 
most elegant compliment, and at the same time gives us the 
most perfect notion of his extraordinary merit, when, dis- 
suading his mistress from the use of paint, he advises her to 
trust to her real complexion, which he compares to the na- 
tive carnations of Apelles. By the great praises lavished 
on the colouring of Apelles, it must not be inferred that he 
was deficient in other parts of the art ; the age in which he 
lived was distinguished above all others, which preceded 
or came after it, for the utmost perfection in design. A 
weakness, therefore, of the first painter, in the first branch 
of the art, could not possibly have been passed over unno- 
ticed and uncensured. There is, indeed, the best reason for 
supposing him, in nearly all parts of the art, equal, and, in 
most, superior to any artist of his time. His character, 
therefore, may very properly be recommended to the consi- 
deration of those sanguine admirers of the Florentine and 
Roman schools, those greensick lovers of chalk, brickdust, 
charcoal, and old tapestry, who are so ready to decry the 
merits of colouring, and to set it down as a kind of super- 
fluity in art. 

The grand style consists, not in neglecting to give all the 
apparent truth, force, and reality of objects to the eye, but 
in supplying the defects, and avoiding the redundancies of 
individual and imperfect forms ; and colouring is not less 
capable, by rejecting what is merely accidental, and copying 
only the general and characteristic hue of each object, of 
being elevated to the same ideal standard. By this simple 
and refined principle, operating equally in all parts of the 
art, the ancients carried it at last to such perfection, that 
nature " toiled after it in vain." Propertius, as we see by 
the foregoing compliment, made it a merit in her to rise to 
a competition with painting, in respect to colour ; and the 
poets and orators, when they wished to give the highest pos - 
sible idea of personal beauty, always had recourse for a 
comparison to the works of the statuary. Thus Ovid, speak- 




ing of Cyllarus, the fairest of the Centaurs, celebrates him 
as vying in perfection with the most admirable statues : 

" A pleasing vigour his fair face express'd ; 

His neck, his hands, his shoulders and his breast 
Did next in gracefulness and beauty stand 
To breathing figures of the sculptor's hand." 

For these reasons, though no one can be a greater ad- 
mirer, I might say adorer, of the works of Michelangelo and 
Raphael than myself, I confess I can no longer consider 
them as improved by defect : I will not believe that 

" Half their beauties to their spots we owe." 

But, great as they were in design, invention, and expres- 
sion, as colouring is capable of a corresponding elevation of 
character, and has often been made equally a vehicle of sen- 
timent* I cannot but suppose that their merits would have 
been considerably augmented by the addition of beautiful 
and appropriate colour.* 

But, in thus protesting against the neglect of colouring, 
I would by no means be considered as giving a sanction to 
the abuse of it. Let me, therefore, caution the student 
against that vulgar error, the mistaking fine colours for fine 
colouring, which consists, not in the gaudiness, but the truth, 
harmony, and transparency of the tints, and the depth of the 
tones. Let him beware of being captivated by the osten- 
tatious splendour of the Venetian and Flemish schools : the 
terrors of the Crucifixion must not be lost in the magnificent 
pomp of a triumphal show, nor the pathetic solemnity of the 
Last Supper be disturbed by the impertinent gaiety of a bac- 
chanalian revel. This is abhorrent to true taste ; nor shall 
the authors of such mockeries escape censure, however great 
their powers or celebrated their names.f 

* The frescoes of Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican are gener- 
ally considered to be not only appropriately but well coloured ; and they 
are certainly coloured in a style best suited to their subjects and treat- 
ment. — W. 

t Exactly ; and this censure would have been merited by Michelangelo 
and Raphael had their frescoes been coloured in the gay tints of the 
Venetians, or, indeed, had they given any greater prominence to colour 
than these works doubtless displayed in their former and uninjured 
state. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

Colour, the peculiar object of the most delightful of our 
senses, is associated in our minds with all that is rare, pre- 
cious, delicate, and magnificent in nature. A fine complexion, 
in the language of the poet, is the dye of love, a hint of some- 
thing celestial : the ruby, the rose, the diamond, the youthful 
blush, the orient morning, and the variegated splendour of 
the setting sun, consist of, or owe their charms principally 
to colour. To the sight it is the index of gaiety, richness, 
warmth, and animation; and should the most experienced 
artist, by design alone, attempt to represent the tender fresh- 
ness of spring, the fervid vivacity of summer, or the mel- 
low abundance of autumn, what must be his success ? Co- 
louring is the sunshine of the art, that clothes poverty in 
smiles, and renders the prospect of barrenness itself agreeable, 
while it heightens the interest, and doubles the charms of 

However proper, therefore, it may be to place colouring 
in a subordinate rank to design, when we consider its various 
beauties, uses, and effects in the art, it will be found no easy 
task to do it justice. He that would excel in it must study 
it in several points of view, — in respect to the whole and in 
respect to the parts of a picture, in respect to mind and in 
respect to body, and in regard to itself alone. Like sound 
in poetry, colouring in painting should always be an echo 
to the sense. The true colourist, therefore, will always, in 
the first place, consider the nature of his subject, whether 
grave or gay, magnificent or melancholy, heroic or common ; 
and, according to the time and place, whether his scene be 
intended to represent day or night, sunshine or gloom, a 
cavern, a prison, a palace, or the open air, such will be the 
predominant hues of his piece. Colour must also be em- 
ployed to harmonise, invigorate, soften, and aid his chiaro- 
scuro, in giving shape and unity to the masses of brightness 
and obscurity necessary to bring out a striking and an agree- 
able general effect, and in distinguishing by their depth, 
strength, or brilliancy, the principal and subordinate figures, 
groups, and actions of the piece, each in its proper degree ; 
by which the eye is enabled to rest undisturbed on any se- 
parate part, to travel undistracted over each in succession, 
or, by fixing at once on the principal object, to enjoy the full 
and united impression of the whole. 




In regard to the parts of a picture, it will not only be ne- 
cessary that every individual object should properly co-operate 
in the general effect, but that each should likewise be pro- 
perly distinguished from all others. It will be useful to the 
artist, therefore, to study the associations of colour with our 
ideas of character. White, the symbol of innocence, and 
the tender tints of spring analogous to the opening of human 
life, become the proper decoration and accompaniment of 
childhood and youth ; greater strength and vivacity of colour 
suit a riper age ; and thus, advancing through every grada- 
tion of richness and depth, till we come to <; black, staid wis- 
donts hue? every actor that enters on his scene, — the young, 
the old, the male, the female, the slave, the hero, the magis- 
trate, the prince, and the philosopher ; in short, all stages of 
humanity, from the infant mewling in his nurse's arms to 
the decrepitude of second childishness, — will derive from the 
freshness, brilliancy, harmony, force, gravity, or sombreness 
of his tints, its characteristic colour and shade of difference, 
both in regard to complexion and dress, the essence and the 

Colour not only pleases by its thousand delicate hues and 
harmonious gradations, but serves in nature, and must be 
employed in art, to characterise and distinguish the various 
qualities and textures of different bodies and surfaces, as the 
tenderness and warmth of flesh, the hardness of stone, the 
polish of metals, the richness of velvet, and the transparency 
of glass, in all their varied situations of light, shade, or re- 
flected light, and of proximity to, or distance from, the eye. 
Nor is its operation merely physical, and confined to body : 
every passion and affection of the human mind has its appro- 
priate tint, and colouring, if properly adapted, lends its aid, 
with powerful effect, in the just discrimination and forcible 
expression of them ; it heightens joy, warms love, inflames- 
anger, deepens sadness, and adds coldness to the cheek of 
death itself. 

The arrangement of colours, another important point, must 
be regulated by laws similar to those laid down respecting 
the management of light and shadow ; they should each have 
a principal, and a few other subordinate masses of unequal 
sizes and irregular shapes, unless the subject expressly de^ 
mands the contrary. This will be following the common 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

course of nature, which always tends to variety, inequality, 
and irregularity, except there is some specific purpose to be 
answered by a different mode of arrangement. It will also 
be found to correspond with the practice of the most ap- 
proved masters in colouring ; and those who are much con- 
versant with pictures will easily recollect instances, where 
the painter having been under the necessity of laying in one 
place a large mass of a particular colour, has, by the intro- 
duction of bunches of flowers, pieces of drapery, or other 
objects, contrived to disseminate smaller masses of a similar 
colour in other parts of the picture, to keep up a due ba- 
lance and harmony throughout the whole. 

He that has attended to all this has done much, but much 
yet remains to be done. It has often been remarked, that 
colours are to the eye what flavours are to the palate and 
sounds to the ear ; and, as music should not only be well 
composed, and played in time and in tune, but the tones also 
of the voices and instruments should be touching and agree- 
able ; so, in painting, the colours should not only be applied 
properly, and arranged with judgment and taste, but they 
should also be capable of affording pleasure by their own 
intrinsic beauty, by their brilliancy, freshness, harmony, and 
transparency ; these constitute the essence and requisite fla- 
vour of colouring ; and, though many painters are unquestion- 
ably highly censurable for the absurdities and improprieties 
into which they have run to gain them, it cannot be denied 
that they ought to obtain in all subjects, in order to render 
the imitation of nature complete, and perfectly agreeable. 

Colour being, exclusively and solely, an object of sight, 
must obviously be less under the power of language than 
almost any other part of the art. The student, however, 
may be told that the freshness and brilliancy of colours de- 
pend, in a great measure, on their purity, that is, on keeping 
them as little mixed together, as little muddled by vehicles 
and subsequent attempts to mend the first touches, as the 
power of the artist and the nature of the subject will admit 
of; and the brilliancy may be still further increased, by 
judiciously contrasting them with their opposites. Red, for 
instance, will have a more lively effect in the neighbourhood 
of blue ; and yellow, opposed to purple.* White will increase 
* This is somewhat contrary to the teachings of science : colours to be 

-LECT. IV.] 



in vivacity by being near black, and black will appear more 
intense, if placed on a ground of white. Laying them also 
in situations admitting of instantaneous comparison is another 
mode of heightening the apparent vivacity of colours. The 
ill-looking may appear well-favoured, if accompanied by 
those that are worse : thus a moderately lively red, or yellow, 
will appear brilliant, if surrounded by others of the same 
class, but of a more depraved quality. Richness and trans- 
parency may be obtained by glazing, and passing the colours 
one over another without suffering them to mix ; and har- 
mony is secured by keeping up the same tone through the 
whole, and not at all by any sort of arrangement, as some 
have erroneously supposed.^ These circumstances will be 
plain and intelligible to all who are a little initiated in the 
theory and management of colours ; but they will also find, 
to their sorrow, that brilliancy and freshness may easily be 
pushed into rawness and crudeness ; that transparency may 
easily degenerate into flimsiness and want of solidity ; that 
harmony easily slides into jaundice and muddiness ; that 
spirit and cleanness of touch quickly run into hardness, and 
softness into woolliness and want of precision ; and, between 
these almost meeting extremes, who shall tell them when 
and where to stop ? This is altogether beyond the power of 
words, and is attainable only by a good organ, long practice, 
and the study of nature and the best masters. 

In studying and copying the works of old and celebrated 
masters, it is proper, however, that the student should never 
lose sight of one circumstance, ivhich is, that they are often, 
if not always, so changed by time, dust, and varnish, that 
it is necessary to consider, rather what they once were, 
than what they are at present. He must acquire the power 

made as effective as possible must be opposed to their complements : 
thus red is opposed to green (blue and yellow); blue to orange (red and 
yellow) ; and yellow to purple (blue and red). And two of the secondary 
colours harmonise beautifully, on the same principle. — W. 

f Science and feeling, if the subject were properly illustrated, would 
soon teach us that this is not an erroneous supposition. Tints are mate- 
rially changed by toning ; it amounts, therefore, to arrangement after all : of 
course many arrangements of colours would suit equally well, but the tints 
must be of corresponding absorptive powers, and this is arrangement. 
On this subject see the works already cited : Brewster's Optics, Goethe's 
Theory of Colours, and Field's Chromatography. — \V. 



opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

of seeing the brilliancy of their tints through the cloud by 
which it is obscured ; otherwise he will be likely to imbibe 
false notions on the subject, and become a colourist of his 
own formation, with ideas equally remote from nature and 
from art, from the genuine practice of the masters, and the 
real appearances of things. It would be as tedious as use- 
less to enter here into a detail of the various materials used 
in painting, and the different modes of applying them, the 
proper knowledge of which it is the province of experiment 
and practice alone to teach. Suffice it to say, that the 
genuine principles of colouring are the same in all, and that, 
under skilful management, they are all capable of producing 
admirable effects ; but, though every student may safely be 
left to his own choice of his vehicles and instruments, it is 
highly necessary to caution him against any undue reliance 
on them, and to remark that much imposition and quackery 
has, at all times, prevailed in respect to this comparatively 
insignificant part of the art. 

Not long since we were astonished by the proposals of a 
very young lady, scarce in her teens, for unveiling her Vene- 
tian secret, and teaching Royal Academicians to colour, at 
five guineas a head, by which young and old, learned and 
unlearned, were equally captivated, and the grave biographer 
of our illustrious first president so dazzled, as to lament most 
piteously that great man's misfortune, in being cut off before 
he had had an opportunity of purchasing her inestimable and 
cheaply proffered favours. At another time, still more won- 
derful recipes are announced for making Titians and Correg- 
gios by a chemical process, and every day some new graphic 
Dr. Graham or Brodum, with a confidence that stupifies com- 
mon sense, and dares incredulity to silence, bursts upon us, 
and boasts the infallibility of his nostrums for producing 
fine pictures without the help of science, genius, taste, or 
industry. Oil, water, varnish, gums, wool, worsted, pokers, 
chalk, charcoal, and brick-dust, have each their several 
champions, who triumph and fall by turns : — 

" Thus have I seen, engaged in mortal fight, 
A sturdy barber beat a collier white ; 
In comes the brickdust-man with grime bespread, 
And beats the collier and the barber red." 




All which might well be laughed at, if it had not the mis- 
chievous effect of diverting the student's attention from the 
end to the means, disposing him to the worst kind of idle- 
ness, and filling his head with a farrago, as pernicious and 
nugatory as the pursuit of the philosopher's stone, or the 
perpetual motion ; and as little connected with the real 
essence of painting as writing with red or black ink, or 
upon crown, double elephant, or foolscap paper, is with that 
of poetry. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his admirable Discourses, seems 
particularly anxious to guard the young practitioner against 
such vain pretenders and wonder-mongers, by exposing the 
danger of his fancying the art to consist of any thing like 
the tricks of a juggler, or imagining that excellence is to be 
obtained any otherwise than by incessant practice and well- 
directed study. " Labour," says he, quoting from the ancients, 
" is the price which the gods have set upon every thing truly 

In allusion to the uses and effects of colouring, when 
applied properly, that is, in assistance, and not to the exclu- 
sion, of other excellencies, Fresnoy not improperly calls it 
the handmaid of her sister Design, for whom she procures 
lovers by dressing, painting, ornamenting, and making her 
appear more bewitching than she naturally is ; and thus, as 
Dryden observes in his parallel betwixt Poetry and Painting, 
it is the versification, tropes, figures, and other elegancies of 
language and expression, the colouring of poetry, that charm 
the reader and beautify the fable or design ; but, in both 
arts, if the latter be mean or vicious, the cost of language 
and colouring will be wholly thrown away, like a rich habit, 
jewels, and other finery, on an ordinary woman, which, in- 
stead of rendering her charming, only tend to illuminate and 
draw her defects more strongly into notice, making what 
was in itself bad appear ten times worse by comparison. 

Colouring being to superficial observers one half of paint- 
ing, and that the most attractive, it has, perhaps, in all parts 
of the world, been nearly coeval with design. The Floren- 
tine artists studied and practised it from the earliest time r 
but apparently with a success by no means answerable to 
their efforts. Ignorant of the principles of chiaroscuro, 
their utmost exertions could never have enabled them to do 

Y 2 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

more than rival the king of diamonds. It is unnecessary, 
therefore, to trace the history of colouring further back than 
the latter end of the fifteenth century, when its true birth 
seems to have taken place at Venice ; at least, there the 
rudiments of all that makes it valuable and agreeable appear 
to have been invented by Giorgione, of whom I have spoken 
in a former lecture, and there they were first successfully 
cultivated and brought to perfection by Titiano da Cador.* 

Without meaning to detract any thing from the unques- 
tionable merits of these great men, I cannot but observe that 
this extraordinary change and improvement in the style of 
colouring must, in part, also, have been owing to the intro- 
duction of oil-painting from Flanders, which took place about 
the period mentioned, and in time entirely superseded the 
more ancient practice of painting in fresco or water-colours ; 
a method which, notwithstanding some advantages in respect 
to freshness and facility, totally precludes the possibility of 
producing the depth of tone, transparency, force, mellowness, 
and finish, attainable by painting in oil.f 

Titian, whose name, like that of Apelles of old, is now 
synonymous with all that is exquisite in colour, was born 
about the year 1480 J, and discovering at an early age a 
strong propensity to painting, was placed, when ten or eleven 
years old, under the tuition of Gian. Bellini, at that time a 
painter of eminence at Venice, but whose stiff, ungraceful 
style of design, and flat, meagre manner of colouring, were 
little calculated to develop and forward the first-rate powers 
of his pupil. Happily, however, about the year 1507, Gior- 
gione, being arrived at Venice from Florence and Leonardo 

* It was rather the union of chiaroscuro with colour that was perfected 
to a great degree by Giorgione and Titian. Colouring is one of the dis- 
tinctive characteristics of the school of Murano. The Vivarini, Giovanni 
Bellini, and others, were excellent colourists in one sense — that is, for the 
depth and purity of their tints. — W. 

f This probably depends greatly upon the skill of the operator, though 
brilliancy, doubtless, is much more easily attained in oil colours than in 
water colours. Oil painting, or more correctly varnish-painting, which 
the method of the Van Eyckswas, was introduced into Italy about 1455, 
ten years after the death of John Van Eyck. — W. 

\ Titian was born in 1477, at Capo del Cadcre, and died of the plague 
at Venice in 1576. Cadorin, Dello Amove ai Veneziani di Tiziano Ve- 
cellio, Veil. 1833.— W. 




da Vinci*, Titian was so warmed and captivated by the un- 
usual boldness and richness of his style, that, immediately 
turning out of doors all that he had learned in the school of 
Bellini, he began afresh ; and such was the assiduity with 
which he applied himself to the study and practice of the 
new manner, that, from the humble imitator, he very soon 
became the successful rival of Giorgione, — nay more, his 
master ; for being employed jointly with Giorgione in the 
decoration of a palace at Venice, the latter was complimented 
by his friends, who were ignorant of the partnership, on the 
part that was painted by Titian, in which they told him he 
had perfectly outdone himself. This unlucky praise so 
shocked Giorgione, that, leaving the work unfinished, he for 
some days hid himself in his house, and from that time for- 
swore all friendship and acquaintance with Titian, who, in 
the sequel, seems to have excelled Giorgione as much in 
jealousy as in painting ; for he is said, some years afterwards, 
to have barricaded his doors against Paris Bordone, from 
very ill-founded fears of experiencing from that painter the 
same disagreeable effects which Giorgione had felt from 

Like Michelangelo in design, Titian, in colouring, may be 
regarded as the father of modern art. He first discovered 
and unfolded all its charms, saw the true end of imitation, 
showed what to aim at, when to labour, and where to stop ; 
and united breadth and softness to the proper degree of 
finishing. He first dared all its depths, contrasted all its 
oppositions, and taught colour to glow and palpitate with all 
the warmth, and tenderness of real life: free from tiresome 
detail, or disgusting minutise, he rendered the roses and lilies 
of youth, the more ensanguined brown of manhood, and the 
pallid coldness of age, with truth and precision ; and to every 
material object, hard or soft, rough or smooth, bright or ob- 
scure, opaque or transparent, his pencil imparted its true qua- 
lity and appearance to the eye, with all the force and harmony 
of light, shade, middle tint, and reflexion, by which he so 
relieved, rounded, and connected the whole, that we are 

* This is an error ; at least there is no evidence of Giorgione's ever 
having visited Florence, or seen Leonardo da Vinci. It is a mere sur- 
mise that he ever saw any of the works of Da Vinci W. 

y 3 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

almost irresistibly tempted to apply the test of another sense, 
and exclaim, 

" Art thou not, pleasing vision ! sensible 
To feeling as to sight?" 

Though gifted with a perfect knowledge of all the qualities 
and powers of colour, he never overstepped the modesty of 
nature, and made that ostentatious and meretricious use of 
it so censurable in many of his followers. In his works, it 
is modest without heaviness, rich without glaring, and trans- 
parent without flimsiness : like a great orator, he never sacri- 
fices the end to the means, subjugates sense to sound, or 
diverts the attention of the spectator from the subject to 

At an early period he mounted the throne of portrait- 
painting, where, in the opinion of many, he still keeps his seat, 
unshaken, notwithstanding the violent attacks made on him 
at different periods by Vandyck, Rembrandt, and Reynolds. 
He combines resemblance with dignity, costume with taste, 
and art with simplicity ; and equally delights the physiogno- 
mist, the artist, the antiquary, and the connoisseur. He was 
the inventor of all that is simple and captivating, or sublime 
and energetic, in landscape ; and, in short, his powers changed 
the whole appearance, and still continued to influence the 
style of modern colouring ; — for where is the painter, since 
his time, who has been exempted by grandeur or littleness, 
by genius or stupidity, from the necessity of imitating the 
works of Titian ? To him we are, in some measure, indebted 
for the daring vivacity of Tintoretto, the freshness of Vero- 
nese, the strength of Carracci*, the glowing splendour of 
Rubens, the truth of Rembrandt, and the taste of Vandyck. 
Justly, therefore, was it said of him by Michelangelo, that, 
had he been a correct designer, he would have been the first 
painter that ever existed. f 

Titian, like his contemporaries, began his career by merely 

* Lodovico ? — W. 

f Michelangelo visited Titian with Vasari, when Titian was engaged 
in the Belvedere on his picture of Danae, in the year 1545. When they 
left, Michelangelo, after praising Titian's colouring and execution, said — 
" If Titian had been as much assisted by ait as he is by nature, nothing 
could surpass him," alluding to his inferior style of design. — W. 




copying nature, as she happened to present herself, without 
choice or selection, and laboured for a time in the labyrinth 
of littleness, meanness, and deformity ; but a hint from Gior- 
gione soon taught him that taste was as requisite as industry, 
that labour might be misapplied, and truth itself become un- 
interesting, unnatural, and disgusting ; that hairs, pores, 
pimples, warts, stains, freckles, and all the train of nauseous 
minutiae, on which inferior artists waste their puny powers, 
are incompatible with the true end of imitation ; that the 
detail must be sunk in the essential and predominant quali- 
ties of bodies ; and that the business of painting, like that of 
poetry, is not to give a feeble catalogue of particulars, but a 
characteristic, comprehensive, and animated impression of 
the whole. By the operation of this principle, extended 
from the parts to the individual, from the individual to the 
group, and thence to the entire mass of his composition, he 
reached the last and greatest excellence of colouring, — that 
of giving the ruling passion or sentiment of his subject in the 
prevailing tone or predominant hue of his piece. 

From Titian we may learn what may be usefully applied, 
not only to ourselves, but to men in all situations and of all 
professions, as well as to painters — that it is never too late to 
improve; for, at the age of seventy, and considerably up- 
wards, we find him still rapidly advancing in his art. He 
had, it is true, at an early period, acquired breadth and gran- 
deur in respect to colour, but he was not so happy as to burst 
the shackles of meanness, and emancipate himself from little- 
ness, in respect to design, character, and invention, till very 
late in life. All obstacles, however, at length gave way to 
his powers and perseverance, and his latter works are not 
only remarkable for the most truly historic and awful tones 
of colour, for a freedom and felicity of execution beyond 
even the great promise of his former time, but also for a pic- 
turesque boldness and sublimity of conception, and energy 
of action and expression, and a learned and grand style of 
design, second to none but Michelangelo. Those, therefore, 
who have seen the majestic figure of his Abraham about to 
offer up Isaac, his Cain and Abel, his David adoring over 
the headless trunk of Goliath, and his astonishing picture 
of the Death of Peter the Martyr, in which there is very 

Y 4 





nearly a complete union of all the excellencies of the art, 
will judge of the infinite importance of appropriate colour 
and execution to design, and be ready to cry out, with a cer- 
tain critic, that " if Titian was not the greatest painter, he 
certainly produced the best pictures in the world."* Nature 
and fortune were equally kind to Titian : he had not to com- 
plain of having fallen on evil days and evil tongues ; he was 
not suffered to waste his sweetness on the desert air ; his 
works, sought for with avidity even in his lifetime, made 
their way, without the aid of time, dust, or varnish, — unscraped, 
unmended, and unsmoked, — into the halls of the opulent, the 
palaces of the great, and the temples of the Deity ; and, what 
is still more extraordinary, he was himself not forbidden to 
accompany them; his fame as a portrait-painter procured him 
pressing invitations to attend every principal court in Eu- 
rope, all being desirous to be delivered down to posterity, 
or, as it was forcibly expressed by Charles V., of being ren- 
dered immortal by the hand of Titian. He several times 
painted the portrait of that emperor, and once, it is said, 
whilst at work, having dropped a pencil, Charles stooped for 
it, gave it him, and, on Titian apologising with some con- 
fusion, said very courteously, " Titian is tuorthy of being 
served by an emperor/ 'j* Charles also conferred on him 
the dignities of a knight, and count palatine, and allowed 
him a liberal pension ; at which finding his courtiers begin- 
ning to express their envy and dissatisfaction, he plainly 
told them, as a reason for his bounty, and to mortify their 
malice, that he could, at any time, make as many nobles as 

* A few dates of celebrated pictures are here given, that the student 
may not be misled by the above remarks, which require some modifica- 
tion. Though Titian produced some of his master-pieces after the age 
of seventy, the majority were painted long before that period. The 
Bacchus and Ariadne, in the National Gallery, was painted in 1514; the 
Assumption of the Virgin, in the academy at Venice, in 1516; the St. 
Peter Martyr, in 1528 ; and the Abraham and Isaac, Cain and Abel, &c. 
in 1541. The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo, painted for Philip II., is the 
greatest work of his later years. Opie's eulogy of the works of later 
years strangely contrasts with the " vicious extreme" of bravura, and the 
" dashing and slobbering," of which Barry, perhaps not unjustly, accuses 
him. — W. 

f " E degno Tiziano essere servito da Cesare." By Caesar, that is, by 
the emperor. — W. 

LEGT. IV.] ] 



he pleased, but that, with all his power, he could never make 
a Titian. 

Thus honoured by the great, and his society courted by all 
the eminent men of his time, Titian was not more happy in 
his genius than in all the circumstances of his life, which, 
prolonged to an almost patriarchal extent, in uninterrupted 
health, and with little abatement of vigour, was brought at 
last to a period by the plague, at the end of ninety-nine 

Of the numerous followers of Titian, the principal names 
are those of Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese, who possessed 
the full powers of their master, perhaps even greater, in 
execution and colouring, but who fall infinitely beneath him 
in judgment and delicacy of taste. " Of all the extraordinary 
geniuses," says Vasari, " who have practised the art of 
painting, for wild, capricious, extravagant, and fantastical 
inventions, for furious impetuosity and boldness in the exe- 
cution of his works, there is none like Tintoretto ; his strange 
whimsies are even beyond extravagance, and his works seem 
to be produced rather by chance than in consequence of any 
previous design, as if he wanted to convince the world that 
the art was a trifle of the most easy attainment."* This cri- 
ticism, though much too violent and severe in the main, as 
might be expected from a Florentine biographer, is not 
wholly inapplicable to all the Venetian painters, Titian alone 
excepted ; for, in their works, it cannot be denied that we 
look in vain for that depth of thought, and those compre- 
hensive and elevated views of nature, which dignify the pro- 
ductions of Rome and Florence; their subjects are, in ge- 
neral, treated without regard to propriety of character, 
historic truth, or the decorum and simplicity due to sacred 
and allegoric representation ; and it is evident they considered 
the art as consisting of little more than those second-rate 
excellencies, which so eminently characterise their own 
school. Hence their grandest compositions seldom offer us 
anything but important events disgraced by mean and un- 
characteristic agents, and vulgarised by the introduction of 
puerile and ridiculous circumstances : 

" What should be great they turn to farce !" 

* Compare Sir Joshua Reynolds's Fourth Discourse, note. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

Everything appears to be burlesqued — put in the wrong 
place or called by a wrong name. We have portrait for 
history — Turks' heads for Apostles' — and Jews for Pagans. 
Fat, smirking damsels (the painters' mistresses or those of 
their friends) flaunting and bridling in all the tawdry dresses 
and fashionable airs of the time, are indiscriminately chris- 
tened Holy Virgins, Pharaotis daughters, Judiths, Re- 
beccas, and Cleopatras ; and black boys, dwarfs, dogs gnaw- 
ing bones, cats, and monkeys, are not seldom obtruded on 
the spectator, on the most solemn occasions, as the principal 
objects in the piece ! ! ! 

" The things we know are neither rich nor rare, 
But wonder how the devil they got there !" 

With all these defects, such are the powers displayed in 
their works, that many of those of a confessedly higher cha- 
racter would suffer considerably by being brought into com- 
parison with them. It is to no purpose that we know this 
effect ought not to take place ; the eye is enthralled, and the 
understanding struggles in vain against the glowing harmony 
of their colouring, the illusive vivacity of their imagery, and 
the sweeping rapidity of their execution, which, like the force 
of eloquence, bear down all before them, and often triumph 
over superior learning and truth. 

But though their style, in general, was properly calculated 
only for occasions of gaiety, frivolity, and magnificence, they 
were not always unsuccessful in subjects of the grand and 
tragic kind. In the famous picture of the Crucifixion, by 
Tintoretto, the ominous, terrific, and ensanguined hue of the 
whole, the disastrous twilight, that indicates some more 
than mortal suffering, electrifies the spectator at the first 
glance, and is such an instance of the powerful application of 
colouring to expression as has probably never been exceeded, 
except by Rembrandt, in the bloodless, heart-appalling hue, 
spread over his Belshazzar's Vision of the Hand-writing on 
the Wall * 

Built on the same principles, and partaking of the same 
beauties and defects as the Venetian, the Flemish school 
next demands our attention in regard to colouring ; in which, 
if it is inferior to the former in depth, richness, and fresh- 
* In the possession of the Earl of Derby. — W. 



ness, it is superior in vivacity, splendour, and transparency ; 
if it yields in individual truth, it goes beyond in general 
harmony. In the Venetian, there is perhaps more strength, 
— in the Flemish, more softness : the one maybe said to give 
us the tints of autumn, and the other those of spring or 

Peter Paul Rubens, the great luminary and centre of the 
Flemish system of art, was of a distinguished family at An- 
twerp, at that time a school of classical and religious learn- 
ing, and the emporium of the western world. Here, from 
his infancy, he was educated, with great care, in every 
branch of polite literature ; and his genius met these advan- 
tages with an ardour and success, of which the ordinary 
course of things furnishes us with no parallel. At the age 
of nineteen he seriously applied himself to painting under 
the tuition of Otho Venius, and, a very few years after- 
wards, we find him in Italy, possessed of unbounded powers, 
both in the theory and practice of his art, and working more 
as the rival than the pupil of those masters, whose works had 
been selected as the objects of his imitation.* 

Both the number and merits of the works of Rubens, as 
well as his uncommon success in life, are calculated to excite 
extraordinary attention : his fame is extended over a large 
part of the continent without a rival ; and it may truly be 
said, that he has enriched his country, not only by the mag- 
nificent examples of art which he left, but also by what 
some may deem a more solid advantage, the wealth which 
continued, till lately, to be drawn into it by the concourse 
of strangers from all parts of the world to view them.f 

To the city of Dusseldorf he has been an equal benefactor, 

* Rubens was born at Cologne, June 29. 1577; his parents were 
natives of Antwerp, whither Rubens was taken by his mother, after the 
death of her husband, in 1587. Rubens went to Italy in 1600, visited 
Spain in 1605, and returned to Antwerp in 1608. In 1620 he visited 
Paris, paid a second visit to Spain in 1628, and came, in 1629, to Eng- 
land, where he was knighted by Charles in the following year. He died 
at Antwerp, May 30. 1640. — W. 

f The concourse of strangers to Antwerp, where the works of Rubens 
are still, perhaps, the visitor's greatest attraction, is still unabated. In 
1840, the second centennial anniversary of his death, a colossal statue of 
the painter, in bronze, was placed, with great ceremony, in the centre of 
the Place Verte. — W. 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. pr« 

as the gallery there would at least lose half its value, were 
his performances alone to be withdrawn from it.* Paris, 
also, owes to him a large part of its attractions; and, if to 
these we add the many towns, churches, and private cabi- 
nets whereon a single picture or sketch of Rubens often 
confers distinction, who shall dispute his legitimate claim to 
be ranked with the most illustrious names in his profession ? 

Rubens is not one of those regular and timid composers, 
who escape censure and deserve no praise. He produces no 
faultless monsters ; his works abound with defects, as well 
as beauties, and are liable, by their daring eccentricities, to 
provoke much criticism. But they have, nevertheless, that 
peculiar property, always the companion of true genius, that 
which seizes on the spectator, commands attention, and en- 
forces admiration in spite of all their faults. " To the want 
of this fascinating power" (says Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his 
Journey through Flanders), " it is owing, that the perform- 
ances of those painters, by which he is surrounded, such as 
the altar-pieces of Crayer, Schut, Segers, Huysum, Tyssens, 
Van Balen, and others, though they have, perhaps, fewer de- 
fects, appear spiritless and insipid in comparison : they are 
men, whose hands, and indeed all their faculties, appear to 
be cabined, cribbed, confined ; and their performances, how- 
ever tolerable in some respects, are too evidently the effect 
of merely careful and laborious diligence. 

" The productions of Rubens, on the contrary, seem to 
flow from his pencil with more than freedom, with prodi- 
gality; his mind was inexhaustible, his hand was never 
wearied; the exuberant fertility of his imagination was, 
therefore, always accompanied by a correspondent spirit in 
the execution of his work : — 

' Led by some rule which guides but not constrains, 
lie finish'd more through happiness than pains.'" 

No man ever more completely laid the reins on the neck 
of his inclinations, no man ever more fearlessly abandoned 
himself to his own sensations, and, depending on them, 
dared to attempt extraordinary things, than Rubens. To 
this, in a great measure, must be attributed that perfect ori- 

* These pictures are now at Munich, whither the Dusseldorf collection 
was removed in i808. — W, 




ginality of manner, by which the limits of the art may be 
said to be extended. Endowed with a full comprehension 
of his own character, he waited not a moment for the acqui- 
sition of what he perhaps deemed incompatible excellence : 
his theory once formed, he seldom looked abroad for assist- 
ance ; there is, consequently, in his works very little that 
appears to be taken from other masters, and, if he has occa- 
sionally stolen any thing, he has so well digested and adapted 
it to the rest of his composition, that the theft is not disco- 
verable. But, though it must be allowed that he possessed, 
in many respects, the true art of imitation, though he looked 
at nature with a true painter's eye, and saw at once the cha- 
racteristic feature by which every object is distinguished, 
and rendered it at once on canvas with a vivacity of touch 
truly astonishing ; though his powers of grouping and com- 
bining his objects into a whole, and forming his masses of 
light and shade, and colour, have never been equalled ; and 
though the general animation and energy of his attitudes, 
and the flowing liberty of his outline, all contribute to arrest 
the attention, and inspire a portion of that enthusiasm by 
which the painter was absorbed and carried away, yet the 
spectator will at last awake from the trance, his eyes will 
cease to be dazzled, and then he will not fail to lament, that 
such extraordinary powers were so often misapplied, if not 
entirely cast away ; he will inquire why Rubens was content 
to want so many requisites to the perfection of art, why he 
paid no greater attention to elegance and correctness of 
form, to grace, beauty, dignity, and propriety of character, 
— why every subject, of whatever class, is equally adorned 
with the gay colours of spring, and every figure in his com- 
positions indiscriminately fed on roses. Nor will he, I fear, 
be satisfied with the ingenious, but surely unfounded apo- 
logy, that these faults harmonise with his style, and were 
necessary to its complete uniformity; that his taste in design 
appears to correspond better with his colouring and compo- 
sition than if he had adopted a more correct and refined 
style of drawing ; and that, perhaps, in painting, as in per- 
sonal attractions, there is a certain agreement and corre- 
spondence of parts in the whole together, which is often more 
captivating than mere regular beauty. 

Lest these remarks should be thought too severe on this 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

illustrious man, I shall extract from the works of the great 
critic, so often already quoted, his description of the picture 
of The Fallen Angels, by Rubens, now in the gallery at Diis- 
seldorf: — "It is impossible," says Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
" without having seen this picture, to form an adequate idea 
of the powers of Rubens. He seems here to have given loose 
to the most capricious imagination in the attitudes and inven- 
tion of the falling angels who are tumbling 

* r With hideous ruin and combustion, down 
To bottomless perdition.' 

" If we consider the fruitfulness of invention discovered in 
this work, or the skill which is shown in composing such an 
infinite number of figures, or the art in the distribution of the 
light and shadow, the freedom and facility with which it 
seems to be performed, and, what is still more extraordinary, 
the correctness, and admirable taste of drawing of foreshort- 
ened figures in attitudes the most difficult to execute, we 
must pronounce this picture to be one of the greatest efforts 
of genius that ever the art of painting has produced." 

His universality is another striking trait in the character 
of Rubens. In the smallest sketch, the lightness and trans- 
parency of his touch and colour are no less remarkable than 
the sweeping rapidity and force of his brush in his largest 
works ; and,, in all kinds of subjects, he equally keeps up his 
wonted superiority. His animals, particularly his lions and 
horses, are so admirable, that it may be said they were never 
properly, at least, poetically, painted but by him. His portraits 
rank with the best works of those painters who have made 
that branch of art their sole study ; the same may be said of 
his landscapes : and, though Claude Lorrain finished more 
neatly, as became a professor in a particular branch, yet there 
is such an airiness and facility in the landscapes of Rubens, 
that a painter would as soon wish to be the author of them as 
of those of Claude, or any other artist whatever.* 

Rubens, like Titian, was caressed, honoured, employed, 
and splendidly rewarded by several crowned heads, and even 
deputed in a ministerial capacity, by the king of Spain, to 

* This paragraph is likewise from Sir Joshua Reynolds, with the ex- 
ception of only a few verbal alterations. See the character of Rubens in 
the Journey to Flanders and Holland. — W. 




make confidential overtures to the court of London, where he 
was knighted by Charles L, and had every possible mark of 
respect shown to him, on account of his unrivalled excellence 
in his profession. At his return to Flanders he was honoured 
with the post of secretary of state, and in that office he con- 
tinued till his death, which was brought on by the gout, at 
the age of sixty-three. He is said to have shown the ruling 
passion strong in death, lamenting to be taken off just as he 
began to be able to paint, and understand his art. 

He enjoyed his good fortune with equal liberality and pru- 
dence, searching out and employing such artists as possessed 
merit, and were in indigent circumstances ; but when visited 
by a famous chemist, who told him he had nearly discovered 
the philosopher's stone, and wished him to become a partner 
in his good luck, Rubens, pointing to his palette and pencils, 
answered, he was come too late, for that, by the help of those 
instruments, he had himself found the philosopher's stone 
some twenty years before. 

In comparing Rubens with Titian, it has been observed, 
that the latter mingled his tints as they are in nature, that is, 
in such a manner as makes it impossible to discover where 
they begin or terminate : Rubens' method, on the contrary, 
was to lay his colours in their places, one by the side of the 
other, and afterwards very slightly mix them by a touch of 
the pencil. Now, as it is an acknowledged principle in the 
art, that the less colours are mingled, the greater their purity 
and vivacity ; and as every painter knows the latter method 
to be the most learned (requiring a deeper knowledge of the 
subject), to be attended with a greater facility, and, if pro- 
perly managed, with greater truth and vivacity of effect, it 
must follow that this difference in their practice, which has 
been adduced to prove the inferiority of Rubens to Titian, 
indisputably proves the reverse ; and though it must be al- 
lowed, perhaps, that, in practice, he at times uncovered too 
much the skeleton of his system, and rendered his tints too 
visible for a near inspection, I can have no doubt that, on 
the whole, he was the most profound theorist ; that more 
may be learnt from him respecting the nature, use, and ar- 
rangement of colours, than from any other master ; and that 
had he not been, in some measure, the dupe of his own 


opie's lectures. 

[lect. IV. 

powers, his name would have stood first in the first rank of 

Rubens, like other men of his degree of eminence, pro- 
duced a multitude of scholars and imitators, to whom he stood 
in the place of nature, and whose excellence can only be 
measured by their proximity to, or distance from, their great 
archetype. The best of their works are now probably, and 
not improperly, attributed to him, from whose mind the 
principle that directed them emanated. From him they 
learned to weigh the powers of every colour, and balance the 
proportion of every tint ; but, destitute of his vigorous ima- 
gination, the knowledge of his principle became, in their 
hands, a mere palliative of mental imbecility (leaves without 
trunk), and served only to lacquer over poverty of thought 
and feebleness of design, and to impart a sickly magnificence 
to stale mythological conceits, and clumsy forms of gods 
without dignity, goddesses without beauty, and heroes without 
energy ; which disgust the more for the abortive attempt to 
conceal, by colouring, the want of that which colour can 
never supply. 

Such will always be the success of exclusive endeavours to 
copy the manner of a particular individual, however great 
his powers or name. The proper use of the study of our 
predecessors is to open and enlarge the mind, facilitate our 
labours, and give us the result of the selection made by them 
of what is grand, beautiful, and striking in nature. A 
painter, therefore, ought to consider, compare, and weigh in 
the balance of reason the different styles of all distinguished 
masters ; and, whatever mode of execution he may choose 
to adopt, his imitation should always be general, and directed 
only to what is truly excellent in each : he may follow the 
same road, but not tread in the same footsteps ; otherwise, to 
borrow a metaphor from a celebrated artist of former days, 
instead of the child, he will be more likely to become the 
grandchild of nature. 




It cannot be considered as superfluous or assuming to present 
the reader of the following lectures with a succinct charac- 
teristic sketch of the principal technic instruction, ancient 
and modern, which we possess ; I say a sketch, for an elabo- 
rate and methodical survey, or a plan well digested and 
strictly followed, would demand a volume. These observa- 
tions, less written for the man of letters and cultivated taste 
than for the student who wishes to inform himself of the 
history and progress of his art, are to direct him to the 
sources from which my principles are deduced, to enable 
him, by comparing my authors with myself, to judge how 
far the theory which I deliver may be depended on as 
genuine, or ought to be rejected as erroneous or false. 

The works, or fragments of works, which we possess, are 
either purely elementary, critically historical, biographic, or 
mixed up of all three. On the books purely elementary, the 
van of which is led by Leonardo da Vinci* and Albert 
Durerf , and the rear by Gherard Lairessef , as the princi- 

* Trattato della Pittura. Rome, 1817, 2 vols. 4to. — W. 

f Albert Diner is the author of a work on the proportions of the 
human frame — Vier Biicher von Menschlicher Proportion durch Al- 
brechten Durer von Niirenberg erfunden und beschrieben, zu nutz 
alien denen, so zu diser kunst lieb tragen. Niirnberg, 1528. — W. 

\ Het Groot Schilderboek, 4to. Amsterdam, 1707. Many similar 
works have since appeared. It is half a century since these lectures were 
written. — W. 




pies which they detail must be supposed to be already in the 
student's possession, or are occasionally interwoven with the 
topics of the lectures, I shall not expatiate, but immediately 
proceed to the historically critical writers ; who consist of all 
the ancients yet remaining, Pausanias excepted. 

We may thank destiny that, in the general wreck of 
ancient art, a sufficient number of entire and mutilated 
monuments have escaped the savage rage of barbarous con- 
quest, and the still more savage hand of superstition, not 
only to prove that the principles which we' deliver formed 
the body of ancient art, but to furnish us with their standard 
of style. For if we had nothing to rely on to prove its exist- 
ence than the historic and critical information left us, such 
is the chaos of assertion and contradiction, such the chrono- 
logic confusion, and dissonance of dates, that nothing short 
of a miracle could guide us through the labyrinth, and the 
whole would assume a fabulous aspect. Add to this the 
occupation and character of the writers, none of them a pro- 
fessional man. For the rules of Parrhasius, the volumes of 
Pamphilus, Apelles, Metrodorus, all irrecoverably lost, we 
must rely on the hasty compilations of a warrior, or the 
incidental remarks of an orator, Pliny and Quintilian ; Pliny, 
authoritative in his verdicts, a Roman in decision, was rather 
desirous of knowing much than of knowing well ; the other, 
though, as appears, a man of exquisite taste, was too much 
occupied by his own art to allow our's more than a rapid 
glance. In Pliny* it is necessary, and for an artist not very 
difficult, to distinguish when he speaks from himself and 
when he delivers an extract, however short ; whenever he 
does the first, he is seldom able to separate the kernel from 
the husk ; he is credulous, irrelevant, ludicrous. The J upiter 
of Phidias, the Doryphorus of Polycletus, the Aphrodite of 
Praxiteles, the Demos of Parrhasius, the Venus of Apelles, 
provoke his admiration in no greater degree than the cord 
drawn over the horns and muzzle of the bull in the group of 
Amphion, Zetus, and Antiopef ; the spires and windings of 

* The thirty-fifth book of the elder Pliny's Natural History contains a 
compendious sketch of the history of painting down to his own time. 
PJiny was killed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed 
Pompeii and Herculaneum, on the 24th of August, 79 a. d. — W. 

f In the group known as the Toro Farnese, at Naples. See note, 
ante, p. 172. — W. 



the serpents in that of the Laocoon, the effect of the foam 
from the sponge of Protogenes, the partridge in his Jalysus, 
the grapes that imposed on the birds, and the curtain which 
deceived Zeuxis. Such is Pliny when he speaks from him- 
self, or, perhaps, from the hints of some dilettante ; but when 
he delivers an extract, his information is not only essential 
and important, but expressed by the most appropriate words. 
Such is his account of the glazing method of Apelles, in 
which, as Reynolds has observed, he speaks the language of 
an artist*; such is what he says of the manner in which 
Protogenes embodied his colours, though it may require the 
practice of an artist to penetrate his meaning. No sculptor 
could describe better in many words than he does in one, the 
manoeuvre by which Nicias gave the decided line of correct- 
ness to the models of Praxiteles ; the word circumlitio, shap- 
ing, rounding the moist clay with the finger, is evidently a 
term of art.f Thus, when he describes the method of 

* Pliny simply states that Apelles glazed his pictures in a manner 
peculiar to himself; he covered them with a dark transparent varnish, 
which had the effect of toning down the colours, and, at the same time, 
increased the brilliancy of the shadows. — W. 

j" This circumlitio does not appear to be any particular term of art; it 
is Pliny's own expression, and is not given as a rendering of any parti- 
cular expression by Praxiteles. Cicero uses the same word when 
speaking of the Persian custom of embalming their dead. Persa? mor- 
tuos cera circumlitos condunt {In lusc. i. 45.). Pliny relates (xxxv. 40.) 
that Praxiteles, being asked which of his marble statues he preferred, 
answered, " those which Nicias had had a hand in ; " so much did he 
attribute to his circumlitio. Here is, evidently, the question of a 
process which some marble statues have undergone under the hands 
of a painter — that is, Praxiteles preferred those statues which had been 
coloured by Nicias. Some of the statues of Praxiteles were left plain, 
and others were coloured, and the sculptor preferred the latter. There 
can be no doubt that the Greeks painted their marble statues ; the 
statue painters are mentioned both by Plato (De Republ. iv. 420. c.) and 
by Plutarch (De Glor, Athen. 6.). They are termed by Plutarch, 
5 AyaXfidTcov ZyKavarcu — encaustic painters of statues, to which class 
Nicias, in his youth, for he was a generation younger than Praxiteles, 
must have belonged. In this dya\^.a.Tcou eyKavais, or circumlitio of Nicias, 
the naked form was occasionally probably merely varnished, the colour- 
ing being applied only to the eyes, eyebrows, and lips, the hair, dra- 
peries, and the various ornaments of the dress: and, doubtless, statues so 
coloured, especially of females, must have had a very beautiful appear- 
ance. This subject will be found treated at greater length in the Epochs 
of Painting, already referred to, ch. vii. — W. 

z 2 



Pausias, who, in painting a sacrifice, foreshortened the bull, 
and threw his shade on part of the surrounding crowd, he 
throws before us the depths of the scenery and its forcible 
chiaroscuro ; nor is he less happy, at least in my opinion, 
when he translates the deep aphorism by which Eupompus 
directed Lysippus to recur to nature, and to animate the 
rigid form with the air of life.* 

In his dates he seldom errs, and sometimes adjusts or cor- 
rects the errors of Greek chronology, though not with equal 
attention ; for whilst he exposes the impropriety of ascribing 
to Polycletus a statue of Hephestion, the friend of Alexander, 
who lived a century after him, he thinks it worth his while 
to repeat that Erynna, the contemporary of Sappho, who 
lived nearly as many years before him, celebrated in her 
poems a work of his friend and fellow- scholar Myron of 
Eleutherse. His text is, at the same time, so deplorably 
mutilated, that it often equally defies conjecture and inter- 
pretation. Still, from what is genuine, it must be confessed 
that he condenses in a few chapters the contents of volumes, 
and fills the whole atmosphere of art. Whatever he tells, 
whether the most puerile legend, or the best attested fact, he 
tells with dignity. 

Of Quintilian, whose information is all relative to style, 
the tenth chapter of the twelfth book, a passage on expres- 
sion in the eleventh, and scattered fragments of observations 
analogous to the process of his own art, is all that we possess ; 
but what he says, though comparatively small in bulk with 
what we have of Pliny, leaves us to wish for more. His 
review of the revolutions of style in painting, from Polyg- 
notus to Apelles, and in sculpture from Phidias to Lysippus, 
is succinct and rapid ; but though so rapid and succinct, 
every word is poised by characteristic precision, and can 
only be the result of long and judicious inquiry, and perhaps 
even minute examination. His theory and taste savour 
neither of the antiquary nor the mere dilettante ; he neither 
dwells on the infancy of art with doating fondness, nor 
melts its essential and solid principles in the crucibles of 
merely curious or voluptuous execution. 

* Eupompus, when asked by Lysippus whom of his predecessors he 
should imitate, pointed to the surrounding crowd and said, " Let nature 
be your model, not an artist." (Pliny, xxxiv. 19.) — W. 



Still less in volume, and still less intentional, are the short 
but important observations on the principles of art, and the 
epochs of style, scattered over nearly all the works of Cicero, 
but chiefly his Orator and Rhetoric Institutions. Some of 
his introductions to these books might furnish the classic 
scenery of Poussin with figures ; and though he seems to 
have had little native taste for painting and sculpture, and 
even less than he had taste for poetry, he had a conception 
of nature ; and, with his usual acumen, comparing the prin- 
ciples of one art with those of another, frequently scattered 
useful hints, or made pertinent observations. For many of 
these he might probably be indebted to Hortensius, with 
whom, though his rival in eloquence, he lived on terms of 
familiarity, and who was a man of declared taste, and one of 
the first collectors of the time. 

Pausanias *, the Cappadocian, was certainly no critic, and 
his credulity is at least equal to his curiosity ; he is often 
little more than a nomenclator, and the indiscriminate chro- 
nicler of legitimate tradition and legendary trash ; but the 
minute and scrupulous diligence with which he examined 
what fell under his own eye, amply makes up for what he 
may want of method or of judgment. His description of 
the pictures of Polygnotus at Delphi, and of the Jupiter of 
Phidias at Olympia, are, perhaps, superior to all that might 
have been given by men of more assuming powers — mines of 
information, and inestimable legacies to our arts. 

The Heroics of the Elder, and the Eiconesf, or Picture 
Galleries of the elder and younger Philostratus, though, per- 
haps, not expressly written for the artist, and rather to amuse 
than to instruct, cannot be sufficiently consulted by the epic 
or dramatic artist. The Heroics furnish the standard of form 
and habits for the Grecian and Troic warriors, from Protesi- 
laus to Paris and Euphorbus ; and he who wishes to acquaint 

* The 'EAAaSos Treptrj-ynais, " Itinerary of Greece," of Pausanias, contains 
an account of probably every considerable work of art in Greece at the 
time that he wrote — that of Antoninus Pius (138 — 161, A.r>.). But he 
has refrained from all expression of opinion on the merits of the respective 
works. — W. 

t s Eik6v6s. The images or pictures. The elder Philostratus describes 
a series of sixty-five pictures, which were encased in the wall of a portico 
facing the sea, in the vicinity of Naples. He lived in the latter part of 
the second and early part of the third century of our era. — W v 




himself with the limits the ancients prescribed to invention, 
and the latitude they allowed to expression, will find no better 
guide than an attentive survey of the subjects displayed in 
their galleries. 

Such are the most prominent features of ancient criticism, 
and those which we wish the artist to be familiar with ; the 
innumerable hints, maxims, anecdotes, descriptions, scattered 
over Lucian, iElian, Athenagus, Achilles Tatius*, Tatian, 
Pollux |, and many more, may be consulted to advantage by 
the man of taste and letters, and probably may be neglected 
without much loss by the student. 

Of modern writers on art, Yasari leads the van ; theorist, 
artist, critic, and biographer in one. The history of modern 
art owes, no doubt, much to Yasari J; he leads us from its 
cradle to its maturity with the anxious diligence of a nurse, 
but he likewise has her derelictions ; for more loquacious 
than ample, and less discriminating styles than eager to 
accumulate descriptions, he is at an early period exhausted 
by the superlatives lavished on inferior claims, and forced 
into frigid rhapsodies and astrologic nonsense to do justice 
to the greater. He swears by the divinity of Michelangelo, 
He tells us himself that he copied every figure of the Cap- 
pella Sistina and the Stanze of Raphael ; yet his memory 
was either so treacherous §, or his rapidity in writing so in- 
considerate, that his account of both is a mere heap of errors 
and unpardonable confusion ; and one might almost fancy that 
he had never entered the Yatican. Of Correggio he leaves 
us less informed than of Apelles. Even Bottari, the learned 
editor of his work, his countryman and advocate against the 
complaints of Agostino Carracci and Federigo Zucchero, 
though ever ready to fight his battles, is at a loss to account 

* A late Greek writer of the fourth or fifth century, and the author of 
a romance entitled " The Loves of Leucippe and Clitophon." — W. 

f The seventh book of his Onomasticon contains an account of the im- 
plements and utensils employed by artists and artisans. — W. 

\ Vile dei piu excellent i Pittorij Scultori, ed Architetti. Flor. 1568; 
reprinted at Rome by Bottari, in 1758. There are many later re- 
prints. — W. 

§ There will be an opportunity to notice that incredible dereliction of 
reminiscence, which prompted him to transfer what he had rightly ascribed 
to Giorgione, in the Florentine edition, 1550, to the elder Palma in the 
subsequent ones. See Lecture on Chiaroscuro. 



for his mistakes. He has been called the Herodotus of our 
art ; and if the main simplicity of his narrative, and the 
desire of heaping anecdote on anecdote, entitle him in some 
degree to that appellation, we ought not to forget that the 
information of every day adds something to the authenticity 
of the Greek historian, whilst every day furnishes matter to 
question the credibility of the Tuscan. 

What we find not in Vasari it is useless to search for 
amidst the rubbish of his contemporaries or followers, from 
Condivi to Bidolfi, and on to Malvasia, whose criticism on 
the style of Lodovico Carracci and his pupils in the cloisters 
of San Michele in Bosco, near Bologna, amounts to little 
more than a sonorous rhapsody of ill applied or empty meta- 
phors and extravagant praise, till the appearance of Lanzi, 
who in his Storia Pittorica della Italia, has availed himself 
of all the information existing in his time, has corrected 
most of those who wrote before him, and though, perhaps, 
not possessed of great discriminative powers, has accumu- 
lated more instructive anecdotes, rescued more deserving 
names from oblivion, and opened a wider prospect of art 
than all his predecessors.* 

The French critics composed a complete system of rules. 

* It ought not, however, to he disguised, that the history of art, de- 
viating from its real object, has been swelled to a diffuse catalogue of 
individuals, who, being the nurslings of different schools, or picking 
something from the real establishes of art, have done little more than 
repeat or mimic rather than imitate, at second hand, what their masters, 
or predecessors, had found in nature, discriminated and applied to art in 
obedience to its dictates. Without depreciating the merits of that multi- 
tude, who strenuously passed life in following others, it must be pro- 
nounced a task below history to allow them more than a transitory 
glance ; neither novelty nor selection and combination of scattered mate- 
rials, are entitled to serious attention from him who only investigates the 
real progress of art, if novelty is proved to have added nothing essential 
to the system, and selection to have only diluted energy, and, by a popular 
amalgama, to have been content with captivating the vulgar. Novelty, 
without enlarging the circle of fancy, may delight, but is nearer allied 
to whim than to invention ; and an eclectic system, without equality of 
parts, as it originated in want of comprehension, totters on the brink of 
mediocrity, sinks art, or splits it into crafts decorated with the specious 
name of schools, whose members, authorised by prescript, emboldened by 
dexterity of hand, encouraged by ignorance, or heading a cabal, subsist 
on mere repetition, with few more legitimate claims to the honours of 
history, than a rhapsodist to those of the poem which he recites. 

z 4 



Du Fresnoy spent his life in composing and revising general 
aphorisms in Latin classic verse ; some on granted, some on 
disputable, some on false principles. Though Horace was 
his model, neither the poet's language nor method have been 
imitated by him. From Du Fresnoy himself, we learn not 
what is essential, what accidental, what superinduced, in 
style ; from his text none ever rose practically wiser than he 
sat down to study it : if he be useful, he owes his usefulness 
to the penetration of his English commentator; the notes 
of Reynolds, treasures of practical observation, place him 
among those whom we may read with profit. What can be 
learnt from precept, founded on prescriptive authority, more 
than on the verdicts of nature, is displayed in the volumes 
of De Piles and Felibien ; a sj^stem, as it has been followed 
by the former students of their academy, and sent out with 
the successful combatants for the premium to their academic 
establishment at Rome, to have its efficiency proved by the 
contemplation of Italian style and execution. The timorous 
candidates for fame, knowing its rules to be the only road to 
success at their return, whatever be their individual bent of 
character, implicitly adopt them, and the consequence is, as 
may be supposed, that technical equality which borders on 
mediocrity. After an exulting and eager survey of the 
wonders the place exhibits, they all undergo a similar course 
of study. Six months are allotted to the Vatican, and in 
equal portions divided between the Fierte of Michelangelo, 
and the more correct graces of Raphael ; the next six months 
are in equal intervals devoted to the academic powers of 
Annibale Carracci, and the purity of the antique. 

About the middle of the last century the German critics 
established at Rome, began to claim the exclusive privilege 
of teaching the art, and to form a complete system of an- 
tique style. The verdicts of Mengs and Winkelmann be- 
came the oracles of antiquaries, dilettanti, and artists from 
the Pyrenees to the utmost north of Europe, have been de- 
tailed, and are not without their influence here. Winkel- 
mann was the parasite of the fragments that fell from the 
conversation or the tablets of Mengs, a deep scholar, and 
better fitted to comment a classic than to give lessons on art 
and style : he reasoned himself into frigid reveries and Pla- 
tonic dreams on beauty. As far as the taste or the instruc- 



tions of his tutor directed him, he is right whenever they 
are ; and between his own learning and the tuition of the 
other, his history of art delivers a specious system and a 
prodigious number of useful observations. He has not, 
however, in his regulation of epochs, discriminated styles 
and masters with the precision, attention, and acumen, 
which, from the advantages of his situation and habits, might 
have been expected ; and disappoints us as often by meagre- 
ness, neglect, and confusion, as he offends by laboured and 
inflated rhapsodies on the most celebrated monuments of art. 
To him Germany owes the shackles of her artists, and the 
narrow limits of their aim ; from him they have learnt to 
substitute the means for the end, and, by a hopeless chase 
after what they call beauty, to lose what alone can make 
beauty interesting, — expression and mind.* The works of 
Mengs himself are, no doubt, full of the most useful informa- 
tion, deep observation, and often consummate criticism. He 
has traced and distinguished the principles of the moderns 
from those of the ancients ; and in his comparative view of 
the design, colour, composition, and expression of Raphael, 
Correggio, and Tiziano, with luminous perspicuity and deep 
precision, pointed out the prerogative or inferiority of each. 
As an artist, he is an instance of what perseverance, study, 
experience, and encouragement, can achieve to supply the 
place of genius. 

Of English critics, whose writings preceded the present 
century, whether we consider solidity of theory or practical 
usefulness, the last is undoubtedly the first. To compare 
Reynolds with his predecessors would equally disgrace our 
judgment and impeach our gratitude.f His volumes can 
never be consulted without profit, and should never be 
quitted by the student's hand, but to embody by exercise the 
precepts he gives and the means he points out. 

* Fuseli is speaking of a school that has long since passed away. 
Sentiment is now a predominating characteristic of the modern schools of 
Germany. — W. 

f The writings of the elder Richardson are well deserving of mention, 
even in the same paragraph with those of Sir Joshua Reynolds. — W. 



[LECT. I. 

Lecture L — Ancient Art. 

Tavra [lev ovv irXao-rcav Kai ypacfyeoov Kai ttoltjtcov irai^^s epyaffovrai. 6 5e 
irao'iv iiravdei tovtuis, t) X a P LS i M a ^ 0I/ airacai a/na, owoaai ^expires, Kai 
birocroi Spares TrepixoptvovTGS, tis av jxi/jLTjcrao'dai dvvairo. 

Lucian, Imagines.* 

Introduction. Greece the legitimate parent of the Art. — Summary of 
the local and political causes. Conjectures on the mechanic process 
of the Art. Period of preparation — Polygnotus — essential style — 
Apollodorus — characteristic style. Period of establishment — Zeuxis, 
Parrhasius, Timanthes Period of refinement. — Eupompus, Apelles, 
Aristides, Euphranor. 

The difficulties of the task prescribed to me, if they do not 
preponderate, are, at least, equal to the honour of the situa- 
tion. If to discourse on any topic with truth, precision, 
and clearness, before a mixed or fortuitous audience, before 
men neither initiated in the subject, nor rendered minutely 
attentive by expectation, be no easy task, how much more 
arduous must it be to speak systematically on an art, before 
a select assembly, composed of professors, whose life has been 
divided between theory and practice, of critics, whose taste 
has been refined by contemplation and comparison, and of 
students, who, bent on the same pursuit, look for the best, 
and always most compendious, method of mastering the 
principles, to arrive at its emoluments and honours ? Your 
lecturer is to instruct them in the principles of "composi- 
tion ; to form their taste for design and colouring ; to 
strengthen their judgment ; to point out to them the beau- 
ties and imperfections of celebrated works of art ; and the 
particular excellencies and defects of great masters ; and, 
finally, to lead them into the readiest and most efficacious 
paths of study." I If, Gentlemen, these directions presup- 

* " All this the statuaries, painters, and poets may enable us to 
effect : but that transcendently blooming grace, or, rather, all the graces 
and loves, as numerous as they may be, that dance around her, who shall 
be able to imitate ! " — Tooke's Translation. — W. 

f Abstract of the Laws of the Royal Academy, article Professors ; 
page 21. 

LECT. I.] 



pose in the student a sufficient stock of elementary know- 
ledge, an expertness in the rudiments, not mere wishes, but 
a peremptory will of improvement, and judgment with do- 
cility, how much more do they imply in the person selected 
to address them — knowledge founded on theory, substan- 
tiated and matured by practice, a mass of select and well 
digested materials, perspicuity of method and command 
of words, imagination to place things in such views as they 
are not commonly seen in, presence of mind, and that reso- 
lution, the result of conscious vigour, which, in daring to 
correct errors, cannot be easily discountenanced ! As con- 
ditions like these would discourage abilities far superior to 
mine, my hopes of approbation, moderate as they are, must, 
in a great measure, depend on that indulgence which may 
grant to my will what it would refuse to my powers. 

Before I proceed to the history of style itself, it seems to 
be necessary that w r e should agree about the terms which 
denote its object, and perpetually recur in treating of it, 
that my vocabulary of technic expression should not clash 
with the dictionary of my audience : mine is nearly that of 
your late president. I shall confine myself, at present, to a 
few of the most important; — the words nature, beauty, grace, 
taste, copy, imitation, genius, talent. Thus, by nature I 
understand the general and permanent principles of visible 
objects, not disfigured by accident, or distempered by dis- 
ease, not modified by fashion or local habits. Nature is a 
collective idea, and, though its essence exist in each indivi- 
dual of the species, can never in its perfection inhabit a 
single object. On beauty I do not mean to perplex you or 
myself with abstract ideas, and the romantic reveries of 
Platonic philosophy, or to inquire whether it be the result of 
a simple or complex principle. As a local idea, beauty is a 
despotic princess, and subject to the anarchies of despotism ; 
enthroned to-day, dethroned to-morrow. The beauty we 
acknowledge is that harmonious whole of the human frame, 
that unison of parts to one end, which enchants us ; the re- 
sult of the standard set by the great masters of our art, the 
ancients, and confirmed by the submissive verdict of modern 
imitation. By grace I mean that artless balance of motion 
and repose sprung from character, founded on propriety, 
which neither falls short of the demands nor overleaps the 



[LECT. I. 

modesty of nature. Applied to execution, it means that 
dexterous power which hides the means by which it was 
attained, the difficulties it has conquered. When we say 
taste, we mean not crudely the knowledge of what is right 
in art : taste estimates the degrees of excellence, and, by 
comparison, proceeds from justness to refinement. Our 
language, or rather those who use it, generally confound, 
when speaking of the art, copy with imitation, though es- 
sentially different in operation and meaning. Precision of 
eye and obedience of hand are the requisites of the former, 
without the least pretence to choice, what to select, what to 
reject ; whilst choice, directed by judgment or taste, consti- 
tutes the essence of imitation, and alone can raise the most 
dextrous copyist to the noble rank of an artist. The imita- 
tion of the ancients was, essential, characteristic, ideal. 
The first cleared nature of accident, defect, excrescence ; 
the second found the stamen which connects character with 
the central form ; the third raised the whole and the parts 
to the highest degree of unison. Of genius I shall speak 
with reserve, for no word has been more indiscriminately 
confounded ; by genius I mean that power which enlarges 
the circle of human knowledge; which discovers new ma- 
terials of nature, or combines the known with novelty, whilst 
talent arranges, cultivates, polishes the discoveries of genius. 

Guided by these preliminaries, we now approach that 
happy coast, where, from an arbitrary hieroglyph, the pal- 
liative of ignorance, from a tool of despotism, or a ponder- 
ous monument of eternal sleep, art emerged into life, mo- 
tion, and liberty; where situation, climate, national character, 
religion, manners, and government conspired to raise it on 
that permanent basis, which, after thejruins of the fabric 
itself, still subsists and bids defiance to the ravages of time ; 
as uniform in the principle as various in its applications, 
the art of the Greeks possessed in itself and propagated, 
like its chief object Man, the germs of immortality. 

I shall not detail here the reasons and the coincidence of 
fortunate circumstance which raised the Greeks to be the 
arbiters of form.* The standard they erected, the canon 

* This has been done in a superior manner by J. G. Herder, in his 
Ideen zur Philosophic der geschichte der, vol. iii. book IS; a 
work translated under the title of Outlines of a Philosophy of the History 
of Man, 4to. 

LECT. I.] 



they framed, fell not from heaven : but as they fancied 
themselves of divine origin, and Religion was the first 
mover of their art, it followed that they should endeavour 
to invest their authors with the most perfect form ; and as 
Man possesses that exclusively, they were led to a complete 
and intellectual study of its elements and constitution ; this, 
with their climate, which allowed that form to grow, and to 
show itself to the greatest advantage ; with their civil and 
political institutions, which established and encouraged ex- 
ercises and manners best calculated to develope its powers ; 
and, above all, that simplicity of their end, that uniformity of 
pursuit which in all its derivations retraced the great prin- 
ciple from which it sprang, and, like a central stamen, drew 
it out into one immense connected web of congenial imita- 
tion ; these, I say, are the reasons why the Greeks carried 
the art to a height which no subsequent time or race has 
been able to rival or even to approach. 

Great as these advantages were, it is not to be supposed 
that nature deviated from her gradual progress in the develop- 
ment of human faculties, in favour of the Greeks. Greek 
Art had her infancy, but the Graces rocked the cradle, and 
Love taught her to speak. If ever legend deserved our 
belief, the amorous tale of the Corinthian maid, who traced 
the shade of her departing lover by the secret lamp, appeals 
to our sympathy to grant it*, and leads us, at the same 
time, to some observations on the first mechanical essays of 
painting, and that linear method which, though passed nearly 
unnoticed by Winkelmann, seems to have continued as the 
basis of execution, even when the instrument for which it 
was chiefly adapted had long been laid aside. 

The etymology of the word used by the Greeks to express 
painting, being the same with that which they employ for 
writing, makes the similarity of tool, materials, method, 

* The legend is this, — the daughter of one Dibutades, a potter of 
Sicyon, at Corinth, struck with the shadow of her lover, who was about 
to leave her, cast by the lamp on the wall, drew its outline with such 
effect, that her father cut away the plaster within the outline, took an im- 
pression from the wall with clay, and baked it with the rest of his pottery. 
And this singular production, says the tradition, was still preserved in 
Corinth down to the time of the destruction of the city by Mummius, 
146. b. c. (Pliny, Hist. Nat 35. 43.) — W. 


almost certain.* The tool was a style or pen of wood or 
metal ; the materials a board, or a levigated plane of wood, 
metal, stone, or some prepared compound ; the method, 
letters, or lines. 

The first essays of the art were skiagrams, simple outlines 
of a shade, similar to those which have been introduced to 
vulgar use by the students and parasites of physiognomy, 
under the name of silhouettes, without any other addition of 
character or feature but what the profile of the object thus 
delineated could afford. 

The next step of the art was the monogram, outlines of 
figures without light or shade, but with some addition of the 
parts within the outline and from that to the monochrom, or 
paintings of a single colour on a plane or tablet, primed with 
white, and then covered with what they called punic waxf, 
first amalgamated with a tough, resinous pigment, generally 
of a red, sometimes dark brown, or black colour. In, or 
rather through this thin inky ground, the outlines were 
traced with a firm but pliant style, which they called oes- 
trum : if the traced line happened to be incorrect or wrong, 
it was gently effaced with the finger or with a sponge, and 
easily replaced by a fresh one. J When the whole design 
was settled, and no farther alteration intended, it was suffered 

* That is, because the tools were originally the same ; the instrument 
was called 4 7pa</ns, the Roman cestrum, whence ypatyiK-fj, the graphic art, or 
drawing. — W. 

+ This punic wax ( Cera Tunica) was merely purified wax. The 
method of its preparation is preserved in Pliny (xxi. 49.), and in Diosco- 
rides (ii. 105.). It was the common yellow wax, purified and bleached 
by being boiled three times in sea-water, with a small quantity of nitre, 
fresh water being used each time, It was then placed in the sun to dry, 
being first covered with a thin cloth to moderate the sun's power. This 
wax was the Greek substitute for oil in painters' colours ; but it was 
also used for many other purposes. — W. 

\ The cestrum is merely the Roman term for the graphis, which was a 
hard pointed instrument, and could only scratch a line, not paint one. 
The dark line on the vases, and, indeed, in all monograms ((jLovdypa/jLjua), 
which were originally executed on a white ground (eV itivaKi AeAeuK-ayteVaj), 
was made with the pencil or vnoypcHpis, called penicillum by the Romans. 
The grounds probably of these outlines or monograms were made wet 
with some species of wax varnish before the outlines were drawn, but 
it was a clear and transparent liquid, and certainly nothing of an inky 
nature. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



to dry, was covered, to make it permanent, with a brown en- 
caustic varnish, the lights were worked over again, and ren- 
dered more brilliant with a point still more delicate, accord- 
ing to the gradual advance from mere outlines to some indi- 
cations, and, at last, to masses of light and shade, and from 
those to the superinduction of different colours, or the inven- 
tion of the polychrom, which, by the addition of the pencil 
to the style, raised the mezzotinto or stained drawing to, a 
legitimate picture, and at length produced that vaunted har* 
mony, the magic scale of Grecian colour.* 

* This account is founded on the conjectures of Mr. Biem> in his 
Treatise on die Malerey der Alten, or the Painting of the Ancients, 4 to. 
Berlin, 1787. 

[This is mere conjecture upon conjecture. The paintings on the 
vases, considered as works of art, vary exceedingly in the details of their 
execution, though, as to method, they may be arranged into two principal 
classes — the black and the yellow, for those which do not come strictly 
under either of these heads are too few, or vary too slightly, to require a 
distinct classification. 

The black vases, or those with the black figures (skiagrams) on the 
stained reddish-yellow terra cotta, are the most ancient, but the style of 
these vases was sometimes imitated by later artists. The inferior examples 
of this class have some of them traces of the graphis upon them, which 
appear to have been made when the clay was still soft ; some also have 
lines or scratches upon the figures themselves, which have been added 
after the painting was completed. The style of design of these black 
figures has been termed the Egyptian or Daedalian style. The varieties 
in this style are occasionally a purple tint instead of the black ; or the 
addition of a red sash or white vest, and sometimes a white face, or white 
hands and feet. 

The vases with the yellow monograms, or outline drawings, or, rather, 
the black monograms, on the yellow grounds, constitute the great mass of 
ancient vases. The drawings on these vases are of very unequal execu- 
tion. On the inferior vases of this class, also, will be found traces of the 
graphis, which appear to have been likewise drawn upon the soft clay, or, 
at least upon some resinous waxy varnish placed over it. The only colour 
upon these vases, independent of that of the clay, is the dark back-ground, 
generally black, which renders the figures very prominent, The draw- 
ings on the best vases are mere monograms, with these dark back-grounds, 
but they have not the slightest traces of the cestrum or graphis upon 
them ; the outlines are drawn with the hair pencil, in colour similar to 
that of the back-ground, which is a species of black varnish, prepared 
apparently from jet — the gagates lapis (yay6.TT)s) of Pliny, which he re- 
marks (xxxvi. 34.) is indelible when used on this kind of earthenware. 

There appears to be no example of the perfect monochrom (jiovoxpu- 
HaTov) on the ancient vases, and examples of the polychrom, or complete 
picture, are very rare. There are a few examples in the British Museum, 
which, however, consist in the mere addition of colours to the ordinary 



[lect. I. 

If this conjecture, for it is not more, on the process of 
linear painting, formed on the evidence and comparison of 
passages always unconnected, and frequently contradictory, 
be founded in fact, the rapturous astonishment at the sup- 
posed momentaneous production of the Herculanean dancers, 
and the figures on the earthern vases of the ancients, will 
cease ; or, rather, we shall no longer suffer ourselves to be 
deluded by palpable impossibility of execution. On a ground 
of levigated lime, or on potter's ware, no velocity or certainty 
attainable by human hands can conduct a full pencil with 
that degree of evenness equal, from beginning to end, with 
which we see those figures executed, or, if it could, would 
ever be able to fix the line on the glassy surface without its 
flowing. To make the appearances we see possible, we must 
have recourse to the linear process that has been described, 
and transfer our admiration to the perseverance, the correct- 
ness of principle, the elegance of taste that conducted the 
artist's hand, without presuming to arm it with contradictory 
powers. The figures he drew, and we admire, are not the 
magic produce of a winged pencil ; they are the result of 
gradual improvement, exquisitely finished monochroms* 

How long the pencil continued only to assist when it 
began to engross, and when it at last entirely supplanted the 
cestrum, cannot, in the perplexity of accidental report, be 
ascertained. Apollodorus, in the 93d Olympiad, and Zeuxis, 
in the 94th, are said to have used it with freedom and with 
power. The battle of the Lapithse and the Centaurs, which, 
according to Pausanias, Parrhasius painted on the shield of 
the Minerva of Phidias, to be chased by Mys, could be no- 
monogram, but they are not incorporated with the vase, as the black and 
ground tints are, but are subject to scale, and are easily rubbed off : they 
consist of white and red, yellow and blue colours. The vases, however, 
of this class are probably of a comparatively late manufacture, as their 
illustrations are drawn in a very inferior style. 

The majority of ancient vases that have been yet discovered were found 
in tombs about Capora and Nola ; their manufacture seems to have 
ceased long before the foundation of the Roman empire, for they were 
sought even in the time of Julius Cassar as objects of ancient workman- 
ship, operis antiqui. Suetonius, Jul. Cas. 81. (More information on this 
subject will be found in the article Painting, by the editor, in the Dic- 
tionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.) — W.] 

* Monograms. — The Monochrom is either a figure in light and shade, 
or the simple silhouette. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



thing but a monochrom, and was probably designed with the 
cestrum, as an instrument of greater accuracy.* Apelles and 
Protogenes, nearly a century afterwards, drew their contested 
lines with the pencil ; and that alone, as delicacy and evan- 
escent subtilty were the characteristic of those lines, may 
give an idea of their excellence. And yet, in their time, the 
diagraphic processf , which is the very same with the linear 
one we have described, made a part of liberal education. 
And Pausias of Sicyon, the contemporary of Apelles, and 
perhaps the greatest master of composition amongst the 
ancients, when employed to repair the decayed pictures of 
Polygnotus at Thespiae, was adjudged by general opinion to 
have egregiously failed in the attempt, because he had sub- 
stituted the pencil for the cestrum, and entered a contest of 
superiority with weapons not his own. 

Here it might seem in its place to say something on the 
encaustic method used by the ancients, were it not a subject 
by ambiguity of expression and conjectural dispute so in- 
volved in obscurity, that a true account of its process must 
be despaired of : the most probable idea we can form of it is, 
that it bore some resemblance to our oil painting, and that 
the name was adopted to denote the use of materials inflam- 

* Pausanias, Attic, c. xxviii. The word used by Pausanias, Karaypa- 
x//cu, shows that the figures of Parrhasius were intended for a bassori- 
lievo. They were in profile. This is the sense of the word catagrapha 
in Pliny, xxxv. c. 8. ; he translates it, " obliquas imagines." [Catagrapha 
means much more than profiles, which were the first forms of the graphic 
art ; it signifies fore shortenings, though the expression of Pausanias can 
convey only the simple idea of drawing. — \V.] 

f By the authority chiefly of Pamphilus, the master of Apelles, who 
taught at Sicyon. " Hujus auctoritate," says Pliny, xxxv. 10, " effectum 
est Sicyone primum, deinde et in tota Graecia, ut pueri ingenui ante 
omnia diagraphicen, hoc est, picturam in buxo, docerentur," &c. Harduin, 
contrary to the common editions, reads indeed, and by the authority, he 
says, of all the MSS., graphicen, which he translates ars " delineandi," 
(desseigner) ; but he has not proved that graphice means not more than 
design ; and if he had, what was it that Pamphilus taught ? he was riot 
the inventor of what he had been taught himself. He established, or 
rather renewed, a particular method of drawing, which contained the rudi- 
ments, and facilitated the method of painting. [The service of Pamphilus 
was not a discovery, but the rendering an art popular, or, perhaps, uni- 
versal, among the free-born. Pliny's words are — " graphice, hoc est pic- 
tura in buxo ; " that is, drawing in outline with the graphis or cestrum 
on tablets of box. — W.] 

A A 



[LECT. I* 

mable, or prepared by fire, the supposed durability of which, 
whether applied hot or cold, authorised the terms kveicavve, 
and inussit* 

The first great name of that epoch of the preparatory 
period, when facts appear to overbalance conjecture, is that of 
Polygnotus of Thasos, who painted the Poecile at Athens, 
and the Lesche, or public hall, at Delphi.f Of these works, 
but chiefly of the two large pictures at Delphi, which repre- 
sented scenes subsequent to the eversion of Troy, and Ulysses 
consulting the spirit of Tiresias in Hades, Pausanias J gives a 
minute and circumstantial detail ; by which we are led to 
surmise, that what is now called composition was totally 
wanting in them as a whole : for he begins his description at 
one end of the picture, and finishes it at the opposite extre- 
mity ; a senseless method, if we suppose that a central group, 
or a principal figure, to which the rest were in a certain 
degree subordinate, attracted the eye. It appears as plain 
that they had no perspective, the series of figures on the 
second or middle ground being described as placed above 
those on the foreground, and the figures in the distance above 
the whole. The honest method, too, which the painter chose 
of annexing to many of his figures their names in writing, 
savours much of the infancy of painting. We should, how- 
ever, be cautious to impute solely to ignorance or imbecility 
what might rest on the firm base of permanent principle. § 

* That is, burnt it in. The colours of the Greeks were ordinarily 
mixed with wax, some resinous gum, and probably an alkali, to render 
them soluble in water ; but colours mixed with wax and mastich alone, 
boiled together in certain proportions, may be applied with water as a 
vehicle. When the picture was painted with colours so prepared, which 
might be applied wet or dry, they were fixed, or burnt in, by applying a 
hot iron, or pan of live coal, called a cauterium. Cerce, waxes, was the 
common term for painters' colours among the Romans. (See the article 
on Painting, already referred to.) — W. 

f Polygnotus came to Athens, probably with Cimon, after the conquest 
of Thasos, about 463 b. c. — W. 

| Pausan. Phocica, c. xxv. seq. 

§ It is probably wrong to speak of these works as two pictures only ; 
there were three subjects; — on the right, the destruction of Troy, and 
the Greeks returning to their native land ; on the left, the visit of 
Ulysses to the Shades to consult the soul of Tiresias. The various 
groups of figures were probably no more one picture than that they all 
contributed to tell the same story. As one group was placed immedi- 
ately above another, it is but fair to suppose that they were a series of 

LECT. I.] 



The genius of Polygnotus was, more than that of any other 
artist before or after, Phidias, perhaps, alone excepted,^ a 
public genius, his works monumental works, and these very 
pictures the votive offerings of the Gnidians. The art at 
that summit, when exerting its powers to record the feats, 
consecrate the acts, perpetuate the rites, propagate the reli- 
gion, or to disseminate the peculiar doctrines of a nation, 
needless of the rules prescribed to inferior excellence and 
humbler pursuits, returns to its elements, leaps strict possibi- 
lity, combines remote causes with present effects, connects 
local distance, and unites separate moments. Simplicity, 
parallelism, apposition, take place of variety, contrast, and 
composition. Such was the Lesche painted by Polygnotus ; 
and if we consider the variety of powers that distinguished 
many of the parts, we must incline to ascribe the primitive 
arrangement of the whole rather to the artist's choice and 
lofty simplicity, than want of comprehension. Nature had 
endowed him with that rectitude of taste which in the indi- 
viduum discovers the stamen of the genus ; hence his style 
of design was essential with glimpses of grandeur* and ideal 
beauty. Polygnotus, says Aristotle, improves the model. 
His invention reached the conception of undescribed being 
in the daemon Eurynomus ; filled the chasm of description in 
Theseus and Pirithous, in Ariadne and Phaedra ; and im- 

paintings, and probably on distinct panels, encased in the walls, according 
to a Greek custom. However, we can form no opinion of their merits of 
composition from the description of Pausanias : it is evident that the 
style of Polygnotus was strictly ethic ; his principle of imitation may 
be defined as that of representation, independent of all accessory incident ; 
whatever was not absolutely necessary to illustrate the principal object, 
was indicated merely by symbol : two or three warriors represented an 
army, a few captives a conquest, a few dead bodies a victory ; a house or 
a wall a city ; the throwing down a wall the destruction of a city, a 
tent an encampment, the taking down a tent, a departure, a ship a 
fleet, &c.— W. 

* This I take to be the sense of Me-yeflos here, which distinguished 
him, according to iElian, Var. Hist. iv. 3., from Dionysius of Colophon. 
The wordTeAeiois in the same passage : /ecu iv tois Ttkeiois €ipya(ero ra a9Ac, 
I translate, he aimed at, he sought his praise in the representation of essen- 
tial proportion ; which leads to ideal beauty. 

The KpeiTTOvs, x €l P 0V $i ofxoiovs; or the fiekriovas rj ko.9* thiols, t)kcu roiov- 
rovs, i] %€ipovas t of Aristotle, Poetic, c. 2.. by which he distinguishes 
Polygnotus, Dionysius, Pauson, confirms the sense given to the passage 
of iElian. 

a a 2 



[LECT. I. 

proved its terrors in the spectre of Tityus ; whilst colour, to 
assist it, became in his hand an organ of expression. Such 
was the prophetic glow which still crimsoned the cheeks of 
his Cassandra in the time of Lucian.* The improvements 
in painting which Pliny ascribes to him, of having dressed 
the heads of his females in variegated veils and bandeaus, 
and robed them in lucid drapery, of having gently opened 
the lips, given a glimpse of the teeth, and lessened the former 
monotony of face — such improvements,! say, were surely the 
most trifling part of a power to which the age of Apelles and 
that of Quintilian paid equal homage ; nor can it add much 
to our esteem for him, to be told by Pliny that there existed, 
in the portico of Pompey, a picture of his with the figure of 
a warrior in an attitude so ambiguous as to make it a ques- 
tion whether he were ascending or descending.^ Such a 
figure could only be the offspring of mental or technic imbe- 
cility, even if it resembled the celebrated one of a Diomede 
carrying off the palladium with one, and holding a sword in 
the other hand, on the intaglio inscribed with the name of 

With this simplicity of manner and materials the art seems 
to have proceeded from Polygnotus, Aglaophon, Phidias, 
Panaanus, Colotes, and Evenor the father of Parrhasius, 
during a period of more or less disputed Olympiads, to the 
appearance of Apollodorus the Athenian J, who applied the 
essential principles of Polygnotus to the delineation of the 

* Tlapei&v to evzpevdts, olav ttt)v Kacrcravdpau Iv tk\ Xecrxv £iroir)(Te rois 
A€\<pois. Lucian : eiKoues. This, and what Pausanias tells of the colour 
of Eurynomus in the same picture, together with the coloured draperies 
mentioned by Pliny, makes it evident, that the " simplex color" ascribed 
by Quintilian to Polygnotus and Aglaophon, implies less a single colour, 
as some have supposed, than that simplicity always attendant on the in- 
fancy of painting, which leaves every colour unmixed and crudely by 
itself. Indeed, the Poecile (rj ttoikiAt] aroa), which obtained its name from 
his pictures, is alone a sufficient proof of variety of colours^ 1 

+ A man might be well represented on a ladder, and yet it might not 
be easy to decide whether he were ascending or descending. — W. 

$ Apollodorus was contemporary with Zeuxis, and flourished princi- 
pally about 430 — 420 b. c. or about a generation later than Polygno- 
tus. — W. 

1 Lucian, Imagines, c. 7., mentions Polygnotus among those artists who 
best understood the mixing and laying on of colours ; the others being 
Euphranor, Apelles, and Attion. — -W. 

I/ECT. I.] 



species, by investigating the leading forms that discriminate 
the various classes of human qualities and passions. The 
acuteness of his taste led him to discover that as all men 
were connected by one general form, so they were separated 
each by some predominant power, which fixed character, 
and bound them to a class : that in proportion as this specific 
power partook of individual peculiarities, the farther it was 
removed from a share in that harmonious system which 
constitutes nature, and consists in a due balance of all its 
parts ; thence he drew his line of imitation, and personified 
the central form of the class, to which his object belonged, 
and to which the rest of its qualities administered without 
being absorbed : agility was not suffered to* destroy firm- 
ness, solidity, or weight ; nor strength and weight agility ; 
elegance did not degenerate to effeminacy, or grandeur 
swell to hugeness ; such were his principles of style.* His 
expression extended them to the mind, if we may judge 
from the two subjects mentioned by Pliny, in which he 
seems to have personified the characters of devotion and im- 
piety ; that, in the adoring figure of a priest, perhaps of 
Chryses, expanding his gratitude at the shrine of the god 
whose arrows avenged his wrongs and restored his daughter: 
and this, in the figure of Ajax wrecked, and from the sea- 
swept rock hurling defiance unto the murky sky. As neither 
of these subjects can present themselves to a painter's mind 
without a contrast of the most awful and terrific tones of 
colour, magic of light and shade, and unlimited command 
over the tools of art, we may, with Pliny and with Plutarch, 
consider Apollodorus as the first assertor of the pencil's 
honours, as the first colourist of his age, and the man 
who opened the gates of art which the Heracleot Zeuxis 

* The whole of the above is Fuseli's explanation of the expression, 
species exprimere instituit, which may mean that Apollodorus was the first 
to give actual appearances, that is, that there was both local and dramatic 
truth of representation in his works. To reconcile this with the glory of 
Polygnotus and his contemporaries, we must suppose that they painted 
men as they actually were or might be, and that Apollodorus painted 
them as they incidentally appeared, according to the subject treated. — W. 

f Hie primus species exprimere instituit, Pliny xxxv. 36., as species in 
the sense Harduin takes it, " oris et habitus venustas," cannot be refused 

a a 3 



[lect. U 

From the essential style of Polygnotus, and the specific 
discrimination of Apollodorus, Zeuxis, by comparison of 
what belonged to the genus and what to the class, framed at 
last that ideal form, which, in his opinion, constituted the 
supreme degree of human beauty, or, in other words, em- 
bodied possibility, by uniting the various but homogeneous 
powers scattered among many, in one object, to one end. 
Such a system, if it originated in genius, was the considerate 
result of taste, refined by the unremitting perseverance with 
which he observed, consulted, compared, selected the con- 
genial but scattered forms of nature. Our ideas are the 
offspring of our senses : we are not more able to create the 
form of a being we have not seen, without retrospect to one 
we know, than we are able to create a new sense. He whose 
fancy has conceived an idea of the most beautiful form, must 
have composed it from actual existence, and he alone can 
comprehend what one degree of beauty wants to become 
equal to another, and at last superlative. He who thinks 
the pretty handsome, will think the handsome a beauty, and 
fancy he has met an ideal form in a merely handsome one ; 
whilst he who has compared beauty with beauty, will at last 
improve form upon form to a perfect image : this was the 
method of Zeuxis, and this he learnt from Homer, whose 
mode of ideal composition, according to Quintilian, he consi- 
dered as his model.* Each individual of Homer forms a 

to Polygnotus, and the artists immediately preceding Apollodorus : it 
must mean here the subdivisions of generic form — the classes. 

At this period we may with probability fix the invention of local 
-colour and tone; which, though strictly speaking it be neither the light 
nor the shade, is regulated by the medium which tinges both. This 
Pliny calls "splendor." To Apollodorus Plutarch ascribes likewise the 
invention of tints, the mixtures of colour and the gradations of shade, if 
I conceive the passage rightly : 'A7roAAo5a>pos 6 Zcoypa<pos 'ApOpocircop irpcoros 
i£<Evpcov cpGopau nai airoxp^o-Ly 2/aas. (Plutarch, Bellone an pace Ath., &c. 
346.) This was the element of the ancient 'Apixoyr], that imperceptible 
transition, which, without opacity, confusion, or hardness, united local 
colour, ciemi-tint, shade, and reflexes. — [This is tone, but it must not be 
altogether denied to the earlier painters, for Plutarch himself ( Timol. 
36.) ascribes the same quality, though in a less degree, to the works of 
Dionysius of Colophon. The distinction is, that what in the works of 
Dionysius was a mere gradation of light and shade, was in those of Apol- 
lodorus a gradation also of tint. — \V.] 

* Qumtuian (Inst Orator, xii. 10.) says that Zeuxis followed Homer, 
and Joved powerful forms even in women. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



class, expresses and is circumscribed by one quality of heroic 
power ; Achilles alone unites their various but congenial 
energies. The grace of Nireus, the dignity of Agamemnon, 
the impetuosity of Hector, the magnitude, the steady prowess 
of the great, the velocity of the lesser Ajax, the perseverance 
of Ulysses, the intrepidity of Diomede, are emanations of 
energy that reunite in one splendid centre fixed in Achilles. 
This standard of the unison of homogeneous powers exhi- 
bited in successive action by the poet, the painter, invigorated, 
no doubt, by the contemplation of the works of Phidias, 
transferred to his own art, and substantiated by form, when 
he selected the congenial beauties of Croton to compose a 
perfect female.* Like Phidias, too, he appears to have been 
less pathetic than sublime, and even in his female forms 
more ample and august than elegant or captivating : his 
principle was epic, and this Aristotle either considered not, 
or did not comprehend, when he refuses him the expression 
of character in action and feature. Jupiter on his throne, 
encircled by the celestial synod, and Helen, the arbitress of 
Troy, contained, probably, the principal elements of his style ; 
but he could trace the mother's agitation in Alcmena, and in 
Penelope the pangs of wedded love. 

On those powers of his invention, which Lucian relates in 
the memoir inscribed with the name of Zeuxis, I shall re- 
serve my observations for a fitter moment. Of his colour 
we know little, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that it 
emulated the beauties and the grandeur of his design ; and 
that he extended light and shade to masses, may be implied 
from his peculiar method of painting monochroms on a black 
ground, adding the lights in white, f 

The correctness of Parrhasius succeeded to the genius of 
Zeuxis. He circumscribed his ample style, and, by subtle 
examination of outline, established that standard of divine 

* This was for a picture of Helen for the temple of Juno Lacinia at 
Croton, and which Zeuxis painted from five virgins of that place. Zeuxis 
exhibited this picture for a head-money, before it was placed in its desti- 
nation, whence it acquired the nick-name of the Prostitute. (Cicero, de 
Invent ii. 1. ; ^Elian, Far. Hist. iv. 12.) — W. 

i " Pinxit et monochromata ex albo." Pliny, xxxv. 9. This Aristotle 
(Poet. c. 6.) calls XevKoypac()eiv.[ — [Or, more probably, from the Greek 
custom of using white grounds, we should understand that Zeuxis exe- 
cuted designs similar to the Italian chiariscuri upon a white ground. — W.] 

a a 4 



[LECT. I, 

and heroic form which raised him to the authority of a legis- 
lator, from whose decisions there was no appeal. He gave 
to the divine and heroic character in painting, what Poly- 
cletus had given to the human in sculpture, by his Dory- 
phorus, a canon of proportion. Phidias had discovered in 
the nod of the Homeric Jupiter the characteristic of ma- 
jesty, inclination of the head: this hinted to him a higher 
elevation of the neck behind, a bolder protrusion of the 
front, and the increased perpendicular of the profile. To 
this conception Parrhasius fixed a maximum; that point 
from which descends the ultimate line of celestial beauty, the 
angle within which moves what is inferior, beyond which 
what is portentous. From the head conclude to the propor- 
tions of the neck, the limbs, the extremities ; from the 
father to the race of gods ; all, the sons of one, Zeus; derived 
from one source of tradition, Homer ; formed by one artist, 
Phidias : on him measured and decided by Parrhasius. In 
the simplicity of this principle, adhered to by the suc- 
ceeding periods, lies the uninterrupted progress and the 
unattainable superiority of Grecian art. With this prero- 
gative, which evidently implies a profound as well as general 
knowledge of the parts, how are we to reconcile the criticism 
passed on the intermediate parts of his forms as inferior to 
their outline ? or how could Winkelmann, in contradiction 
with his own principles, explain it by a want of anatomic 
knowledge?* How is it possible to suppose that he who de- 
cided his outline with such intelligence that it appeared 
ambient, and pronounced the parts that escaped the eye, 
should have been uninformed of its contents ? Let us rather 
suppose that the defect ascribed to the intermediate forms of 
his bodies, if such a fault there was, consisted in an affec- 
tation of smoothness bordering on insipidity, in something 
effeminately voluptuous, which absorbed their character and 
the idea of elastic vigour; and this Euphranor seems to 
have hinted at, when in comparing his own Theseus with 
that of Parrhasius, he pronounced the Ionian's to have fed 

* In lineis extremis palmam adeptus — minor tamen videtur, sibi com- 
paratus, in mediis corporibus exprimendis. Pliny, xxxv. 10. Here we 
find the inferiority of the middle parts merely relative to himself. Com- 
pared with himself, Parrhasius was not all equal. 

LECT. I.] 



on roses, his own on flesh * : emasculate softness was not, in 
his opinion, the proper companion of the contour, or flowery 
freshness of colour an adequate substitute for the sterner 
tints of heroic form. 

None of the ancients seem to have united or wished to 
combine, as man and artist, more qualities seemingly incom- 
patible than Parrhasius. The volubility and ostentatious 
insolence of an Asiatic with Athenian simplicity and urbanity 
of manners ; punctilious correctness with blandishments of 
liandling and luxurious colour, and with sublime and pa- 
thetic conception, a fancy libidinously sportivcj* If he was 
not the inventor, he surely was the greatest master of alle- 
gory, supposing that he really embodied, by signs universally 
comprehended, that image of the Athenian AI1M02, or 
people, which was to combine and to express at once its 
contradictory qualities. Perhaps he traced the jarring 
branches to their source, the aboriginal moral principle of 
the Athenian character, which he made intuitive. J This 
supposition alone can shed a dawn of possibility on what 
else appears impossible. We know that the personification 
of the Athenian Arifiog was an object of sculpture, and that 
its images by Lyson and Leochares § were publicly set up ; 
but there is no clue to decide whether they preceded or 
followed the conceit of Parrhasius. It was repeated by 
Aristolaus, the son of Pausias. 

* Theseus, in quo dixit, eundem apud Parrhasium rosa pastum esse, 
suum vero carne. Plin. xxxv. 11. 

f The epithet which he gave to himself of 'A£po5icuToy, the delicate, 
the elegant, and the epigram he is said to have composed on himself, are 
known. See Athenrcus, Is xii. He wore, says iElian, Far. Hist. ix. 11., 
a purple robe and a golden garland; he bore a staff wound round with 
tendrils of gold, and his sandals were tied to his feet and ankles with 
golden straps. Of his easy simplicity we may judge from his dialogue 
with Socrates in Xenophon ; airo/j.u7]/j.ou6vaTCi}u y 1. iii. Of his libidinous 
fancy, besides what Pliny says, from his Archigallus, and the McJeager 
and Atalante mentioned by Suetonius in Tiberio, c. 44. 

% The meaning of this is very obscure, and certainly throws no light 
whatever on the subject. — W. 

§ In the portico of the Pira?us by Leochares ; in the hall of the Five- 
hundred, by Lyson ; in the back portico of the Ceramicus there was a 
picture of Theseus, of Democracy and the Demos, by Euphranor. Pau- 
san. Attic, i. 3. Aristolaus, according to Pliny, was a painter, " e severis- 



[LECT. I. 

The decided forms of Parrhasius, Timanthes the Cyth- 
nian, his competitor for fame, attempted to inspire with 
mind and to animate with passions. No picture of antiquity- 
is more celebrated than his Immolation of Iphigenia in Aulis, 
painted, as Quintilian informs us, in contest with Colotes of 
Teos, a painter and sculptor from the school of Phidias ; 
crowned with victory at its rival exhibition, and since, the 
theme of unlimited praise from the orators and historians of 
antiquity, though the solidity or justice of their praise rela- 
tively to our art has been questioned by modern criticism. 
On this subject, which not only contains the gradations of 
affection from the most remote to the closest link of huma- 
nity, but appears to me to offer the fairest specimen of the 
limits which the theory of the ancients had prescribed to 
the expression of pathos, I think it my duty the more cir- 
cumstantially to expatiate, as the censure passed on the 
method of Timanthes has been sanctioned by the highest 
authority in matters of art/ — that of your late president, in 
his eighth discourse at the delivery of the academic prize* 
for the best picture painted for this very subject. 

How did Timanthes treat it ? Iphigenia, the victim or- 
dained by the oracle to be offered for the success of the 
Greek expedition against Troy, was represented standing 
ready for immolation at the altar, the priest, the instruments 
of death, at her side ; and around her an assembly of the 
most important agents, or witnesses, of the terrible solemnity, 
from Ulysses, who had disengaged her from the embraces of 
her mother at My cense, to her nearest male relations, her 
uncle Menelaus, and her own father, Agamemnon. Timan- 
thes, say Pliny and Quintilian, with surprising similarity of 
phrase, when, in gradation he had consumed every image of 
grief within the reach of art, from the unhappy priest to the 
deeper grief of Ulysses, and from that to the pangs of kindred 
sympathy in Menelaus, unable to express with digriity the 
father's woe, threw a veil, or, if you will, a mantle over his face. 
This mantle, the pivot of objection, indiscriminately bor- 
rowed, as might easily be supposed, by all the concurrents for 
the prize, gave rise to the following series of criticisms : — 

" Before I conclude, I cannot avoid making one observa- 
tion on the pictures now before us. I have observed that 
* In the year 1778. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



every candidate has copied the celebrated invention of 
Timanthes in hiding the face of Agamemnon in his mantle ; 
indeed such lavish encomiums have been bestowed on this 
thought, and that too by men of the highest character in 
critical knowledge, — Cicero, Quintilian, Valerius Maximus, 
and Pliny, — and have been since re-echoed by almost 
every modern that has written on the arts, that your adopt- 
ing it can neither be wondered at nor blamed. It appears 
now to be so much connected with the subject, that the spec- 
tator would perhaps be disappointed in not finding united in 
the picture what he always united in his mind, and considered 
as indispensably belonging to the subject. But it may be 
observed, that those who praise this circumstance were not 
painters. They use it as an illustration only of their own 
art : it served their purpose, and it was certainly not their 
business to enter into the objections that lie against it in 
another art. I fear we have but very scanty means of 
exciting those powers over the imagination which make so 
very considerable and refined a part of poetry. It is a doubt 
with me, whether we should even make the attempt. The 
chief, if not the only occasion which the painter has for this 
artifice, is, when the subject is improper to be more fully 
represented, either for the sake of decency, or to avoid what 
would be disagreeable to be seen ; and this is not to raise or 
increase the passions, which is the reason that is given for 
this practice, but, on the contrary, to diminish their effect. 

¥ Mr. Falconet has observed, in a note on this passage, in 
his translation of Pliny, that the circumstance of covering 
the face of Agamemnon was probably not in consequence of 
any fine imagination of the painter, — which he considers as 
a discovery of the critics, — but merely copied from the 
description of the sacrifice, as it is found in Euripides. 

"The words from which the picture is supposed to be 
taken, are these : — Agamemnon saw Iphigenia advance 
towards the fatal altar ; he groaned, he turned aside his 
head, he shed tears, and covered his face with his robe, 

" Falconet does not at all acquiesce in the praise that is 
bestowed on Timanthes ; not only because it is not his 
invention, but because he thinks meanly of this trick of con- 
cealing, except in instances of blood, where the objects would 
be too horrible to be seen ; but, says he, 6 in an afflicted 



[LECT. I. 

father, in a king, in Agamemnon, you, who are a painter, 
conceal from me the most interesting circumstance, and then 
put me off with sophistry and a veil. You are (he adds) a 
feeble painter, without resources ; you do not know even 
those of your art. I care not what veil it is, whether closed 
hands, arms raised, or any other action that conceals from 
me the countenance of the hero. You think of veiling Aga- 
memnon ; you have unveiled your own ignorance.' 

" To what Falconet has said, we may add, that supposing 
this method of leaving the expression of grief to the imagi- 
nation to be, as it was thought to be, the invention of the 
painter, and that it deserves all the praise that has been 
given it, still it is a trick that will serve but once ; whoever 
does it a second time will not only want novelty, but be 
justly suspected of using artifice to evade difficulties. 

" If difficulties overcome make a great part of the merit of 
art, difficulties evaded can deserve but little commendation." 

To this string of animadversions, I subjoin with diffidence 
the following observations : — 

The subject of Timanthes was the immolation of Iphigenia ; 
Iphigenia was the principal figure, and her form, her resig- 
nation, or her anguish, the painter's principal task : the 
figure of Agamemnon, however important, is merely acces- 
sory, and no more necessary to make the subject a completely 
tragic one, than that of Clytemnestra, the mother, no more 
than that of Priam, to impress us with sympathy at the 
death of Polyxena. It is therefore a misnomer of the 
French critic to call Agamemnon " the hero" of the subject. 

Neither the French nor the English critic appears to me 
to have comprehended the real motive of Timanthes, as con- 
tained in the words, " decere" "pro dignitate" and " digne" 
in the passages of Tully, Quintilian, and Pliny*; they ascribe 

* Cicero, Oratory 73. seq In alioque ponatur/aliudque totum sit, 

utrum decere an oportere dicas ; oportere enim, perfectionem declarat 
officii, quo et semper utendum est, et omnibus: decere, quasi aptum esse, 
consentaneumque ternpori et persona? ; quod cum in factis scepissime, 
turn in dictis valet, in vultu denique, et gestu, et incessu. Contraque 
item dcdecere. Quod si poeta fugit, ut maximum vitium, qui peccat, 
etiam, cum probam orationem affingit improbo, stultove sapientis: si 
denique pictor ille vidit, cum immolanda Iphigenia tristis Calchas esset, 
moestior Ulysses, mcereret Menelaus, obvolvendum caput Agamemnonis 

LECT. I.] 



to impotence what was the forbearance of judgment ; 
Timanthes felt like a father ; he did not hide the face of 
Agamemnon because it was beyond the power of his art, not 
because it was beyond the possibility, but because it was be- 
yond the dignity of expression, because the inspiring feature 
of paternal affection at that moment, and the action which of 
necessity must have accompanied it, would either have de- 
stroyed the grandeur of the character and the solemnity of 
the scene, or subjected the painter, with the majority of his 
judges, to the imputation of insensibility. He must either 
have represented him in tears, or convulsed at the flash of 
the raised dagger, forgetting the chief in the father, or shown 
him absorbed by despair, and in that state of stupefaction 
which levels all features, and deadens expression ; he might, 
indeed, have chosen a fourth mode, he might have exhibited 
him fainting and palsied in the arms of his attendants, and 
by this confusion of male and female character merited the 
applause of every theatre at Paris. But Timanthes had too 
true a sense of nature to expose a father's feelings, or to tear 
a passion to rags ; nor had the Greeks yet learnt of Rome to 
steel the face. If he made Agamemnon bear his calamity as 
a man, he made him also feel it as a man. It became the 
leader of Greece to sanction the ceremony with his presence 

esse, quoniam summum ilium luctum penicillo, non posset imitari : si 
denique histrio, quid deceat quasrit : quid faciendum oratori putemus? 

M. F. Quintilianus, 1. ii. c. 14. — Operienda sunt qucedam, sive cstendi 
non debent, sive exprimi pro dignitate non possunt : ut fecit Timanthes, 
ut opinor, Cithnius, in ea tabula qua Coloten Tejum vicit. Nam cum 
in Iphigenia? immolatione pinxisset tristcm Calchantem, tristiorem Ulys- 
sem, addidisset Menelao quern summum poterat ars efficere mcerorem, 
consumptis affectibus, non reperiens quo digne modo Patris vultum possit 
exprimere, velavit ejus caput, et sui cuique animo dedit aestimandum. 

It is evident to the slightest consideration, that both Cicero and Quin- 
tilian lose sight of their premises, and contradict themselves in the motive 
they ascribe to Timanthes. Their want of acquaintance with the nature 
of plastic expression made them imagine the face of Agamemnon bevond 
the power of the artist. They were not aware that by making him 
waste expression on inferior actors at the expense of a principal one, they 
call him an improvident spendthrift, and not a wise economist. 

From Valerius Maximus, who calls the subject " Luctuosum immolatm 
Iphigenia? sacrificium" instead of immolandce, little can be expected to the 
purpose. Pliny, with the digne of Quintilian, has the same confusion of 



[LECT. I. 

it did not become the father to see his daughter beneath the 
dagger's point. The same nature that threw a real mantle 
over the face of Timoleon, when he assisted at the punish- 
ment of his brother, taught Timanthes to throw an ima- 
ginary one over the face of Agamemnon ; neither height 
nor depth, propriety of expression w^as his aim. 

The critic grants that the expedient of Timanthes may be 
allowed in "instances of blood," the supported aspect of 
which would change a scene of commiseration and terror 
into one of abomination and horror, which ought for ever to 
be excluded from the province of art, of poetry, as well as 
painting ; and would not the face of Agamemnon, uncovered, 
have had this effect ? was not the scene he must have wit- 
nessed a scene of blood ? and whose blood was to be shed ? 
that of his own daughter — and what daughter ? young 
beautiful, helpless, innocent, resigned, — the very idea of 
resignation in such a victim, must either have acted irre- 
sistibly to procure her relief, or thrown a veil over a father's 
face. A man who is determined to sport wit at the expense 
of heart alone could call such an expedient ridiculous — " as 
ridiculous," Mr. Falconet continues, " as a poet would be, 
who, in a pathetic situation, instead of satisfying my expec- 
tation, to rid himself of the business, should say that the 
sentiments 6T his hero are so far above whatever can be said 
on the occasion, that he shall say nothing." And has not 
Homer, though he does not tell us this, acted upon a similar 
principle ? has he not, when Ulysses addresses Ajax in 
Hades, in the most pathetic and conciliatory manner, instead 
of furnishing him with an answer, made him remain in 
indignant silence during the address, then turn his step and 
stalk away? Has not the universal voice of genuine 
criticism with Longinus told us, — and if it had not, would 
not nature's own voice tell us,— that that silence was charac- 
teristic, that it precluded, included, and soaring above all 
answer consigned Ulysses for ever to a sense of inferiority ? 
Nor is it necessary to render such criticism contemptible, to 
mention the silence of Dido in Virgil, or the Niobe of 
JEschylus, who was introduced veiled, and continued mute 
during her presence on the stage. 

But in hiding Agamemnon's face, Timanthes loses the 
honour of invention, as he is merely the imitator of Euri- 

LECT. I.] 



pides, who did it before him ? * I am not prepared with 
chronologic proofs to decide whether Euripides or Timanthes, 
who were contemporaries, about the period of the Pelopon- 
nesian war, fell first on this expedient ; though the silence 
of Pliny and Quintilian on that head seems to be in favour 
of the painter, neither of whom could be ignorant of the 
celebrated drama of Euripides and would not willingly have 
suffered the honour of this master-stroke of an art they were 
so much better acquainted with than painting, to be trans- 
ferred to another from its real author, had the poet's claim 
been prior : nor shall I urge that the picture of Timanthes 
was crowned with victory by those who were in daily habits 
of assisting at the dramas of Euripides, without having their 
verdict impeached by Colotes, or his friends, who would not 
have failed to avail themselves of so flagrant a proof of infe- 
riority as the want of invention in the work of his rival. I 
shall only ask, what is invention? If it be the combination 
of the most important moment of a fact with the most 
varied effects of the reigning passion on the characters intro- 
duced — the invention of Timanthes consisted in showing, 
by the gradation of that passion in the faces of the assistant 
mourners, the reason why that of the principal one was hid. 
This he performed, and this the poet, whether prior or sub- 
sequent, did not, and could not do, but left it with a silent 
appeal to our own mind and fancy, f 

In presuming to differ on the propriety of this mode of 
expression in the picture of Timanthes from the respectable 
authority I have quoted, I am far from a wish to invalidate 
the equally pertinent and acute remarks made on the danger 

* Iff is observed by an ingenious critic, that in the tragedy of Eu- 
ripides, the procession is described, and upon Iphigenia's looking back on 
her father, he groans, and hides his face to conceal his tears ; whilst the 
picture gives the moment that precedes the sacrifice, and the hiding has 
a different object, and arises from another impression. 

cos SWeiSe*/ Ayafxe/avoou avo.\ 

im acpayas (rreixovcrau eh akaos Koprjv 
avecrreva^. KafnraAiv crrperpas Kapa 
AaKpva ivporiyev, byi.jxaToov ireirXou irpoOeis. 

f It may be questioned whether, under the circumstances, Agamemnon 
could have been represented in any other way. Notwithstanding his 
conviction that his attendance was necessary to sanction the deed, he 
could not look upon it ; it would be unnatural. — W. 



[lect. I. 

of its imitation, though I am decidedly of opinion that it is 
strictly within the limits of our art. If it be a " trick," it is 
certainly one that " has served more than once." We find it 
adopted to express the grief of a beautiful female figure on a 
basso- rilievo formerly in the palace Valle at Rome, and pre- 
served in the Admiranda of S. Bartoli ; it is used, though 
with his own originality, by Michelangelo in the figure of 
Abijam, to mark unutterable woe ; Raphael, to show that 
he thought it the best possible mode of expressing remorse 
and the deepest sense"of repentance, borrowed it in the Ex- 
pulsion from Paradise, without any alteration, from Masaccio ; 
and, like him, turned Adam out with both his hands before 
his face.* And how has he represented Moses at the burning 
bush, to express the astonished awe of human in the visible 
presence of divine nature? by a double repetition of the 
same expedient ; once in the ceiling of a Stanza, and again 
in the loggia of the Vatican, with both his hands before his 
face, or rather with his face immersed in his hands. As we 
cannot suspect in the master of expression the unworthy 
motive of making use of this mode merely to avoid a diffi- 
culty, or to denote the insupportable splendour of the vision, 
which was so far from being the case, that, according to the 
sacred record, Moses stepped out of his way to examine the 
ineffectual blaze : we must conclude that nature herself dic- 
tated to him this method as superior to all he could express 
by features ; and that he recognised the same dictate in 
Masaccio, who can no more be supposed to have been ac- 
quainted with the precedent of Timanthes than Shakspere 
with that of Euripides, when he made Macduff draw his hat 
over his face. 

Masaccio and Raphael proceeded on the principle, Gherard 
Lairesse copied only the image of Timanthes, and has perhaps 
incurred by it the charge of what Longinus calls paren- 
thyrsos, in the ill-timed application of supreme pathos to an 
inadequate call. Agamemnon is introduced covering his face 
with his mantle, at the death of Polyxena, the captive daugh- 
ter of Priam, sacrificed to the manes of Achilles, her be- 

* It was made use of also by Polygnotus long before either Timanthes 
or Euripides. In the Destruction of Troy, in the Lesche at Delphi, an 
Infant is represented holding his hands before his eyes, to escape the 
horrors of the scene. Pausanias, x. 26. — W. 

LECT. I.] 



trothed lover, treacherously slain in the midst of the nuptial 
ceremony by her brother Paris. The death of Polyxena, 
whose charms had been productive of the greatest disaster 
that could befall the Grecian army, could not perhaps pro- 
voke in its leader emotions similar to those which he felt at 
that of his own daughter : it must, however, be owned that 
the figure of the chief is equally dignified and pathetic ; and 
that, by the introduction of the spectre of Achilles at the 
immolation of the damsel to his manes, the artist's fancy has 
in some degree atoned for the want of discrimination in the 

Such were the artists, who, according to the most corre- 
sponding data, formed the style of that second period, which 
fixed the end and established the limits of art, on whose firm 
basis arose the luxuriant fabric of the third or the period of 
refinement, which added grace and polish to the forms it 
could not surpass ; amenity or truth to the tones it could 
not invigorate ; magic and imperceptible transition to the 
abrupt division of masses ; gave depth and roundness to 
composition ; at the breast of nature herself caught the 
passions as they rose, and familiarised expression. The 
period of Apelles, Protogenes, Aristides, Euphranor, Pausias, 
the pupils of Pamphilus and his master Eupompus, whose 
authority obtained what had not been granted to his great 
predecessor and countryman Polycletus, the new establish- 
ment of the school of Sicyon.* 

The leading principle of Eupompus may be traced in the 
advice which he gave to Lysippus (as preserved by Pliny), 
whom, when consulted in a standard of imitation, he directed 
to the contemplation of human variety in the multitude of 
the characters that were passing by, with the axiom, u that 
nature herself was to be imitated, not an artist." Excellence, 
said Eupompus, is thy aim, such excellence as that of Phidias 
and Polycletus ; but it is not obtained by the servile imita- 
tion of works, however perfect, without mounting to the 
principle which raised them to that height ; that principle 
apply to thy purpose, — there fix thy aim. He who, with 
the same freedom of access to nature as another man, con- 
tents himself to approach her only through his medium, has 
resigned his birthright and originality together ; his master's 
* Pliny, 1. xxxv. c. 18, 
B B 



[lect. I. 

manner will be his style. If Phidias and Polycletus have 
discovered the substance and established the permanent 
principle of the human frame, they have not exhausted the 
variety of human appearances and human character ; if they 
have abstracted the forms of majesty and those of beauty, 
nature, compared with their works, will point out a grace 
that has been left for thee ; if they have pre-occupied man 
as he is, be thine to give him that air with which he actually 

Such was the advice of Eupompus : less lofty, less am- 
bitious than what the departed epoch of genius would have 
dictated, but better suited to the times, and better to his 
pupil's miud. When the spirit of liberty forsook the public, 
grandeur had left the private mind of Greece : subdued by 
Philip, the gods of Athens and Olympia had migrated to 
Pella, and Alexander was become the representative of 
Jupiter ; still those who had lost the substance fondled the 
shadow of liberty; rhetoric mimicked the thunders of oratory, 
sophistry and metaphysic debate that philosophy which had 
guided life, and the grand taste that had dictated to art the 
monumental style, invested gods with human form and raised 
individuals to heroes, began to give way to refinements in 
appreciating the degrees of elegance or of resemblance in 
imitation : the advice of Eupompus, however, far from im- 
plying the abolition of the old system, recalled his pupil to 
the examen of the great principle on which it had established 
its excellence, and to the resources which its inexhaustible 
variety offered for new combinations. 

That Lysippus considered it in that light, his devotion to 
the Doryphorus of Polycletus, known even to Tully, suffi- 
ciently proved. That figure which comprised the pure pro- 
portions of juvenile vigour furnished the readiest application 
for those additional refinements of variety, character, and 

* This speech is supplied by Fuseli himself, as the following extract 
shows, for it is its only source. — W. " Lysippum Sieyonium — audendi 
rationcm cepisse pictoris Eupompi responso. Eura enim interrogatum, 
quern sequeretur antecedentium, dixisse demonstrata hoininum multitu- 
dine, naturam ipsam imitandam esse, non artificem. Non habet Latinum 
nomen symmetria, quam diligentissime custodivit, nova intactaque ratione 
quadratas veterum staturas permutando ; Vulgoque dicebat, ab illis factos, 
quales essent, homines: a se, qiules viderentur esse." Plin. xxxiv. 8. 

LECT. I.] 



fleshy charms that made the base of his invention : its sym- 
metry directing his researches amid the insidious play of 
accidental charms, and the claims of inherent grace, never 
suffered imitation to deviate into incorrectness; whilst its 
squareness and elemental beauty melted in more familiar 
forms on the eye, and from an object of cold admiration be- 
came the glowing one of sympathy. Such was probably the 
method formed by Lysippus on the advice of Eupompus, 
more perplexed than explained by the superficial extract 
and the rapid phrase of Pliny. 

From the statuary's we may form an idea of the painter's 
method. The doctrine of Eupompus was adopted by Pam- 
philus the Amphipolitan, the most scientific artist of his 
time, and by him communicated to Apelles of Cos, or, as 
Lucian will have it, of Ephesus*, his pupil, in whom, if we 
believe tradition, nature exhibited, once, a specimen what 
her union with education and circumstances could produce. 
The name of Apelles in Pliny is the synonyme of unrivalled 
and unattainable excellence ; but the enumeration of his 
works points out the modification which we ought to apply 
to that superiority ; it neither comprises exclusive sublimity 
of invention, the most acute discrimination of character, the 
widest sphere of comprehension, the most judicious and best 
balanced composition, nor the deepest pathos of expression : 
his great prerogative consisted more in the unison than in 
the extent of his powers ; he knew better what he could do, 
what ought to be done, at what point he could arrive, and 
what lay beyond his reach, than any other artist. Grace of 
conception and refinement of taste were his elements, and 
went hand in hand with grace of execution and taste in 
finish ; powerful and seldom possessed singly, irresistible 
when united : that he built both on the firm basis of the 
former system, not on its subversion, his well-known contest 
of lines with Protogenes, not a legendary tale, but a well- 
attested fact, irrefragably proves : what those lines were, 

* MaWou 5e 'A7reAA77s ' 6 'E^eo'ioy iraAai ravrrju irpuv\a§€ Tt\v eiKova* 
Kcu yap au /ecu ovros Sia€\rj6eis irpos TiToK^fxaiov. 

AovKiavov ircpi rov fi, p. IT. A. 1 

1 Lucian refers to a painter who lived at the court of Ptolemy 
Philopator, a century after Apelles of Cos. See note, ante. — W. 

B b 2 



[LECT. I. 

drawn with nearly miraculous subtlety in different colours, 
one upon the other, or rather within each other, it would be 
equally unavailing and useless to inquire ; but the corollaries 
we may deduce from the contest are obviously these, that 
the schools of Greece recognised all one elemental principle ; 
that acuteness and fidelity of eye and obedience of hand form 
precision ; precision, proportion ; proportion, beauty : that 
it is the " little more or less," imperceptible to vulgar eyes, 
which constitutes grace, and establishes the superiority of 
one artist over another : that the knowledge of the degrees 
of things, or taste, presupposes a perfect knowledge of the 
things themselves : that colour, grace, and taste are orna- 
ments, not substitutes of form, expression, and character, 
and when they usurp that title, degenerate into splendid 

Such were the principles on which Apelles formed his 
Venus, or rather the personification of female grace, the 
wonder of art, the despair of artists ; whose outline baffled 
every attempt at emendation, whilst imitation shrunk from 
the purity, the force, the brilliancy, the evanescent grada- 
tions of her tints.* 

The refinements of the art were, by Aristicles of Thebes, 
applied to the mind. The passions which tradition had or- 
ganised for Timanthes, Aristides caught as they rose from 
the breast, or escaped from the lips of nature herself ; 
Iris volume was man, his scene society : he drew the subtle 
discriminations of mind in every stage of life, the whispers, 
the simple cry of passion and its most complex accents. 
Such, as history informs us, was the suppliant whose voice 
you seemed to hear, such his sick man's half-extinguished 
eye and labouring breast, such Byblis expiring in the 
pangs of love, and, above all, the half-slain mother, shud- 
dering lest the eager babe should suck the blood from 
her palsied nipple. This picture was probably at Thebes 
when Alexander sacked that town ; what his feelings 
were when he saw it, we may guess from his sending it to 
Pella. Its expression, poised between the anguish of ma- 
ternal affection and the pangs of death, gives to commisera- 
tion an image, which neither the infant, piteously caressing 

* Apelles was probably the inventor of what artists call glazing. See 
Heynolds on Du Fresnoy, note 37. vol. ii. 

LECT. I.] 



his slain mother in the group of Epigonus*, nor the absorbed 
feature of the Mobe, nor the struggle of the Laocoon, ex- 
cites. Timanthes had marked the limits that discriminate 
terror from the excess of horror ; Aristides drew the line 
that separates it from disgust. His subject is one of those 
that touch the ambiguous line of a squeamish sense. Taste 
and smell, as sources of tragic emotion, and in consequence 
of their power, commanding gesture, seem scarcely admis^ 
sible in art or on the theatre, because their extremes are 
nearer allied to disgust, and loathsome or risible ideas, than 
to terror. The prophetic trance of Cassandra, who scents 
the prepared murder of Agamemnon at the threshold of the 
ominous hall ; the desperate moan of Macbeth's queen, on 
seeing the visionary spot still uneffaced infect her hand, — 
are images snatched from the lap of terror, — but soon would 
cease to be so, were the artist or the actress to enforce the 
dreadful hint with indiscreet expression or gesture. This r 
completely understood by Aristides, was as completely missed 
by his imitators, Raphael f, in the Morbetto, and Poussin, in 
his Plague of the Philistines.! In the group of Aristides, 
our sympathy is immediately interested by the mother, still 
alive, though mortally wounded, helpless, beautiful, and for- 
getting herself in the anguish for her child, whose situation 
still suffers hope to mingle with our fears; he is only ap- 
proaching the nipple of the mother. In the group of Ra- 
phael, the mother dead of the plague, herself an object of 
apathy, becomes one of disgust, by the action of the man, 
who, bending over her, at his utmost reach of arm, with one 
hand removes the child from the breast, whilst the other, 
applied to his nostrils, bars the effluvia of death. Our feel- 
ings, alienated from the mother, come too late even for the 
child, who, by his languor, already betrays the mortal 
symptoms of the poison he imbibed at the parent corpse. It 
is curious to observe the permutation of ideas which takes 
place, as imitation is removed from the sources of nature : 
Poussin, not content with adopting the group of Raphael, 

* In matri interfecta? infante miserabiliter blandiente. Plki. 1. xxxiv. 
c. 9. 

f A design of Raphael, representing the lues of the Trojans in Creta, 
known by the print of Marc Antonio ilaimondi. 
X In the National Gallery. — W. 

B B 3 



[LECT. I. 

once more repeats the loathsome attitude in the same scene ; 
lie forgot, in his eagerness to render the idea of contagion 
still more intuitive, that he was averting our feelings with 
ideas of disgust. 

The refinements of expression were carried still farther 
by the disciple of Aristides, Euphranor, the Isthmian, who 
excelled equally as painter and statuary, if we may form our 
judgment from the Theseus he opposed to that of Parrhasius, 
and the bronze figure of Alexander Paris, in whom, says 
Pliny*, the umpire of the goddesses, the lover of Helen, 
and yet the murderer of Achilles might be traced. This ac- 
count, which is evidently a quotation of Pliny's, and not the 
assumed verdict of a connoisseur, has been translated with 
an emphasis it does not admit of, to prove that an attempt 
to express different qualities or passions at once in the same 
object, must naturally tend to obliterate the effect of each. 
" Pliny," says our critic, " observes, that in a statue of 
Paris, by Euphranor, you might discover at the same time 
three different characters: the dignity of a judge of the 
goddesses, the lover of Helen, and the conqueror of Achilles. 
A statue in which you endeavour to unite stately dignity, 
youthful elegance, and stern valour, must surely possess 
none of these to any eminent degree." The paraphrase, it is 
first to be observed, lends itself the mixtures to Pliny it dis- 
approves of; we look in vain for the coalition of " stately 
dignity, stern valour, and youthful elegance," in the Paris 
he describes : the murderer of Achilles was not his con- 
queror. But may not dignity, elegance, and valour, or any 
other not irreconcilable qualities, be visible at once in a 
figure without destroying the primary feature of its cha- 
racter, or impairing its expression ? Let us appeal to the 
Apollo. Is he not a figure of character and expression, and 
does he not possess all three in a supreme degree? Will it 
imply mediocrity of conception or confusion of character, if 
we were to say that his countenance, attitude, and form 
combine divine majesty, enchanting grace, and lofty indig- 
nation ? Yet not all three, one ideal whole irradiated the 
mind of the artist who conceived the divine semblance. He 

* Reynolds' Disc. V. vol. i. p. 120. " Euphranoris Alexander Paris 
est : in quo laudatur quod omnia simul intelligantur, judex dearum, 
amator Helenas, et tamen Achillis interfector." Plin. 1. xxxiv. 8. 

LECT. I.] 



gave, no doubt, the preference of expression to the action in 
which the god is engaged, or rather, from the accomplish- 
ment of which he recedes with lofty and contemptuous ease. 
This was the first impression which he meant to make upon 
us : but what contemplation stops here ? what hinders us, 
when we consider the beauty of these features, the harmony 
of these forms, to find in them the abstract of all his other 
qualities, to roam over the whole history of his achieve- 
ments ? we see him enter the celestial synod, and all the 
gods rise at his august appearance* ; we see him sweep the 
plain after Daphne ; precede Hector with the aegis, and dis- 
perse the Greeks ; strike Patroclus with his palm and decide 
his destiny. And is the figure frigid because its great idea 
is inexhaustible ? might we not say the same of the Infant 
Hercules of Zeuxis or of Reynolds ? Did not the idea of the 
man inspire the hand that framed the mighty child ? his 
magnitude, his crushing grasp, his energy of will, are only 
the germ, the prelude of the power that rid the earth of 
monsters, and which our mind pursues. Such was, no doubt, 
the Paris of Euphranor : he made his character so pregnant, 
that those who knew his history might trace in it the origin 
of all his future feats, though first impressed by the expres- 
sion allotted to the predominant quality and moment. The 
acute inspector, the elegant umpire of female form receiving 
the contested pledge with a dignified pause, or with en- 
amoured eagerness presenting it to the arbitress of his des- 
tiny, was probably the predominant idea of the figure ; 
whilst the deserter of Oenone, the seducer of Helen, the 
subtle archer, that future murderer of Achilles, lurked under 
the insidious eyebrow, and in the penetrating glance of 
beauty's chosen minion. Such appeared to me the character 
and expression of the sitting Paris in the voluptuous Phry- 
gian dress, formerly in the cortile of the palace Altheims, at 
Rome. A figure, nearly colossal, which many of you may 
remember, and a mint idea of whom may be gathered from 
the print among those in the collection published of the 
Museum Clementinum : a work, in my opinion, of the 
highest style, and worthy of Euphranor, though I shall not 
venture to call it a repetition in marble of his bronze. 

From these observations on the collateral and unsolicited 

* See the Hymn (ascribed to Homer) on Apollo. 
15 n 4 


beauties which must branch out from the primary expres- 
sion of every great idea, it will not, I hope, be suspected, 
that I mean to invalidate the necessity of its unity, or to be 
the advocate of pedantic subdivision. All such division di- 
minishes, all such mixtures impair the simplicity and clear- 
ness of expression : in the group of the Laocoon, the frigid 
ecstacies of German criticism have discovered pity, like a 
vapour, swimming on the father's eyes ; he is seen to sup- 
press in the groan for his children the shriek for himself, — 
his nostrils are drawn upward to express indignation at un- 
worthy sufferings, whilst he is said at the same time to im- 
plore celestial help : to these are added the winged effects 
of the serpent-poison, the writhings of the body, the spasms 
of the extremities. To the miraculous organisation of such 
expression, Agesander, the sculptor of the Laocoon, was too 
wise to lay claim. His figure is a class ; it characterises 
every beauty of virility verging on age ; the prince, the 
priest, the father, are visible, but, absorbed in the man, 
serve only to dignify the victim of one great expression ; 
though poised by the artist, for us to apply the compass to 
the face of the Laocoon, is to measure the wave fluctuating 
in the storm : this tempestuous front, this contracted nose, 
the immersion of these eyes, and, above all, that long-drawn 
mouth, are separate and united, seats of convulsion, features 
of nature struggling within the jaws of death. 

Lecture II. — Art of the Moderns. 

Introduction — different direction of the art. Preparative style — Ma- 
saccio — Leonardo da Vinci. Style of establishment — Michelangelo, 
Raphael, Titian, Correggio. Style of refinement, and depravation. 
Schools — of Tuscany, Rome, Venice, Lombardy. The Eclectic 
School — Machinists. The German School — Albert Durer. The 
Flemish School — Rubens. The Dutch School — Rembrandt. Obser- 
vations on art in Switzerland. The French School. The Spanish 
School. England — Conclusion. 

In the preceding discourse I have endeavoured to impress 
you with the general features of ancient art in its different 
periods of preparation, establishment, and refinement. We 


are now arrived at the epoch of its restoration in the fifteenth 
century of our era, when religion and wealth, rousing emu- 
lation, reproduced its powers, but gave to their exertion a 
very different direction. The reigning church found itself 
indeed under the necessity of giving more splendour to the 
temples and mansions destined to receive its votaries, of 
subduing their senses with the charm of appropriate images 
and the exhibition of events and actions, which might sti- 
mulate their zeal and inflame their hearts ; but the sacred 
mysteries of Divine Being, the method adopted by Revela- 
tion, the duties its doctrine imposed, the virtues it demanded 
from its followers, faith, resignation, humility, sufferings, 
substituted a medium of art as much inferior to the resources 
of Paganism in a physical sense as incomparably superior in 
a spiritual one. Those public customs, that perhaps as much 
tended to spread the infections of vice as they facilitated 
the means of art, were no more ; the heroism of the Christian 
and his beauty were internal, and powerful or exquisite 
forms allied him no longer exclusively to his God. The 
chief repertory of the artist, the sacred records, furnished 
indeed a sublime cosmogony, scenes of patriarchal simplicity 
and a poetic race, which left nothing to regret in the loss of 
heathen mythology ; but the stem of the nation whose history 
is its exclusive theme, if it abounded in the characters and 
powers fit for the exhibition of passions, did not teem with 
forms sufficiently exalted to inform the artist and elevate the 
art. Ingredients of a baser cast mingled their alloy with 
the materials of grandeur and of beauty. Monastic legend 
and the rubric of martyrology claimed more than a legi- 
timate share from the labours of the pencil and the chisel, 
made nudity the exclusive property of emaciated hermits or 
decrepit age, and if the breast of manhood was allowed to 
bare its vigour, or beauty to expand her bosom, the antidotes 
of terror and of horror were ready at their side to check the 
apprehended infection of their charms. When we add to 
this the heterogeneous stock on which the reviving system 
of arts was grafted, a race indeed inhabiting a genial cli- 
mate, but itself the fasces of barbarity, the remnants of Go- 
thic adventurers, humanised only by the cross, mouldering 
amid the ruins of the temples they had demolished, the bat- 
tered fragments of the images their rage had crushed, — 




when we add this, I say, we shall less wonder at the languor 
of modern art in its rise and progress, than be astonished 
at the vigour by which it adapted and raised materials partly 
so unfit and defective, partly so contaminated, to the magni- 
ficent system which we are to contemplate. 

Sculpture had already produced respectable specimens of 
its reviving powers in the basso-rilievos of Lorenzo Ghiberti, 
some works of Donato, and the Christ of Philippo Brunel- 
leschi*, when the first symptoms of imitation appeared in 
the frescoes of Tommaso da San Giovanni, commonly called 
Masaccio, from the total neglect of his appearance and per- 
son. f Masaccio first conceived that parts are to constitute 
a whole ; that composition ought to have a centre ; expres- 
sion, truth ; and execution, unity : his line deserves at- 
tention, though his subjects led him not to investigation of 
form J, and the shortness of his life forbade his extending 
those elements which Raphael, nearly a century afterward, 
carried to perfection — it is sufficiently glorious for him to 
have been more than once copied by that great master of 
expression, and in some degree to have been the herald of 
his style : Masaccio lives more in the figure of Paul preach- 
ing on the Areopagus §, of the celebrated cartoon in our 
possession, and in the borrowed figure of Adam expelled 
from paradise in the loggia of the Vatican, than in his own 
mutilated or retouched remains. 

The essays of Masaccio in imitation and expression, An- 
drea Mantegna|| attempted to unite with form ; led by the 

* See the account of this in Vasari ; vita di P. Brunelleschi, torn. ii. 
114. It is of wood, and still exists in the chapel of the family Gondi, in 
the church of Santa Maria Novella. I know that near a century before 
Donato, Giotto is said to have worked in marble two basso-rilievoes on 
the campanile of the cathedral of Florence ; they probably excel the style 
of his pictures as much as the bronze works executed by Andrea Pisani, 
from his designs, at the door of the Battisterio. 

"f Masaccio da San Giovanni di Valdarno, born in 1402, is said to have 
died in 1443. He was the pupil of Masolino da Panicale. 

J Masaccio was unquestionably superior in form to all his predeces- 
sors, and was indeed the first painter who attempted an expression of the 
individuality of form. — W. 

§ This figure is now attributed to Filippino Lippi, the son of Fra 
Filippo. — W. 

|| Andrea Mantegna died at Mantua, 1505. A monument erected 
to his memory in 1517, by his sons, gave rise to the mistake of dating 
his death from that period. 

LECT. n.] 



contemplation of the antique, fragments of which he ambi- 
tiously scattered over his works : though a Lombard, and 
born prior to the discovery of the best ancient statues, he 
seems to have been acquainted with a variety of characters, 
from forms that remind us of the Apollo, Mercury or Me- 
leager, down to the fauns and satyrs ; but his taste was too 
crude, his fancy too grotesque, and his comprehension too 
weak to advert from the parts that remained to the whole 
that inspired them : hence in his figures of dignity or beauty 
we see not only the meagre forms of common models, but 
even their defects tacked to ideal Torsos ; and his fauns and 
satyrs, instead of native luxuriance of growth and the sportive 
appendages of mixed being, are decorated with heraldic ex- 
crescences and arabesque absurdity. His triumphs are known 
to you all * ; they are a copious inventory of classic lumber, 
swept together with more industry than taste, but full of 
valuable materials. Of expression he was not ignorant : 
his burial of Christ furnished Raphael with the composition, 
and some of the features and attitudes in his picture on the 
same subject in the palace of the Borgheses, — the figure of 
St. John, however, left out by Raphael, proves that Man- 
tegna sometimes mistook grimace for the highest degree of 
grief. His oil-pictures exhibit little more than the elaborate 
anguish of missal-painting ; his frescoes, destroyed at the 
construction of the Clementime museum, had freshness, free- 
dom, and imitation. 

To Luca Signorclli, of Cortona*, nature more than atoned 
for the want of those advantages which the study of the an- 
tique had offered to Andrea Mantegna. He seems to have 
been the first who contemplated with a discriminating eye 
his object, saw what was accident and what essential ; ba- 
lanced light and shade, and decided the motion of his figures. 
He foreshortened with equal boldness and intelligence, and 
thence it is, probably, that Vasari fancies to have discovered, 
in the Last Judgment of Michelangelo, traces of imitation 
from the Lunetta, painted by Luca, in the church of the 

* This is the Triumph of Julius Caesar, painted in distemper, and now 
at Hampton Court ; these nine Cartoons were executed for Lodovico 
Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, about the year 1490, after Mantegna's return 
from Rome. — W. 

f Luca Signorelli died at Cortona 1521, aged 82. 




Madonna, at Orvietto ; but the powers which animated him 
there, and before at Arezzo, are no longer visible in the Go- 
thic medley with which he filled two compartments in the 
chapel of Sixtus IV. at Home.* 

Such was the dawn of modern art, when Leonardo da 
Vinci f broke forth with a splendour which distanced former 
excellence : made up of all the elements that constitute the 
essence of genius, favoured by education and circumstances, 
all ear, all eye, all grasp ; painter, poet, sculptor, anatomist, 
architect, engineer, chemist, machinist, musician, man of 
science, and sometimes empiric J, he laid hold of every 
beauty in the enchanted circle, but without exclusive attach- 

* That is, the Sistine Chapel. These pictures represent — the Return 
of Moses on his divine mission to Egypt ; and the Death of Moses : they 
are early works of the painter, as they were executed shortly after 1473, 
for Sixtus IV., in competition for a prize with Sandro Botticelli, Dome- 
nico Ghirlandajo, Don Bartolomeo, Pietro Perugino, and Cosimo Ro- 
selli. Cosimo, though probably the worst painter, proved the best man 
of the world. Knowing that Sixtus would decide for himself, he co- 
loured his works very highly, sparing neither ultramarine nor gold, and, 
as he had foreseen, the pope, attracted by his gay colouring and gilding, 
awarded him the prize, and in addition ordered the others to improve 
their works, at the same time upbraiding them for not using liner co- 
lours W. 

f Leonardo da Vinci is said to have died in 1517, aged 75, at Paris. 
[Leonardo died at Cloux, near Amboise, May 2, 1519, in his 67th year. 

J The flying birds of paste, the lions filled with lilies, the lizards with 
dragons' wings, horned and silvered over, savour equally of the boy and 
the quack. It is singular enough that there exists not the smallest hint 
of Lorenzo de Medici having employed or noticed a man of such powers 
and such early celebrity ; the legend which makes him go to Rome with 
Juliano de Medici at the access of Leo X., to accept employment in the 
Vatican, whether sufficiently authentic or not, furnishes a characteristic 
trait of the man. The Pope passing through the room allotted for the 
pictures, and instead of designs and cartoons, finding nothing but an ap- 
paratus of distillery, of oils and varnishes, exclaimed, Oime, costui non e 
per far nulla, da che comincia a pensare alia fine innanzi il principio delV 
opera! From an admirable sonnet of Leonardo, preserved by Lomazzo, 
he appears to have been sensible of the inconstancy of his own temper, 
and full of wishes, at least, to correct it. 

Much has been said of the honour he received by expiring in the arms 
of Francis I. It was indeed an honour, by which destiny in some degree 
atoned to that monarch for his future disaster at Pavia. [This story 
appears to be a mere rumour ; the court of Francis was, at the time of 
Leonardo's death, at St. Germain, and no journey was undertaken on 




ment to one, dismissed in her turn each. Fitter to scatter 
hints than to teach by example, he wasted life, insatiate, in 
experiment. To a capacity which at once penetrated tbe 
principle and real aim of the art, he joined an inequality of 
fancy that at one moment lent him wings for the pursuit of 
beauty, and the next, flung him on the ground to crawl after 
deformity : we owe him chiaroscuro with all its magic ; we 
owe him caricature with all its incongruities. His notions 
of the most elaborate finish and his want of perseverance 
were at least equal: — want of perseverance alone could 
make him abandon his cartoon destined for the great council- 
chamber at Florence, of which the celebrated contest of 
horsemen was but one group ; for to him who could organise 
that composition, Michelangelo himself ought rather to have 
been an object of emulation than of fear ; and that he was 
able to organise it, we may be certain from the remaining 
imperfect sketch in the " Etruria Pittrice;" but still more 
from the admirable print of it by Edelinck, after a drawing 
of Rubens, who was Leonardo's great admirer, and has said 
much to impress us with the beauties of his Last Supper in 
the refectory of the Dominicans at MHano, the only one of 
his great works which he carried to ultimate finish, through 
all his parts, from the head of Christ to the least important 
one : it perished soon after him, and we can estimate the 
loss only from the copies that survive.* 

Bartolomeo della Porta, or di S. Marco, the last master of 
this period j, first gave gradation to colour, form, and masses 
to drapery, and a grave dignity, till then unknown, to exe- 
cution. If he were not endowed with the versatility and 
comprehension of Leonardo, his principles were less mixed 
with base matter, and less apt to mislead him. As a member 
of a religious order, he confined himself to subjects and cha- 
racters of piety ; but the few nudities which he allowed him- 
self to exhibit show sufficient intelligence and still more 
style: he fore- shortened with truth and boldness, and when- 
ever the figure did admit of it, made his drapery the vehicle 

that day, May 2. 1519. See Amoretti, Memorie Storiche su la Vita, gli 
Studj, e le opere di Leonardo da Vinci. Milan, 1804. — W.] 

* The best, that of Marco d' Oggione, is now in the possession of the 
Royal Academy. — W. 

| Fra Bartolomeo died at Florence 1517, at the age of 48. 


of the limb it invests. He was the true master of Raphael, 
whom his tuition weaned from the meanness of Pietro Pe- 
rugino, and prepared for the mighty style of Michelangelo 

Sublimity of conception, grandeur of form, and breadth 
of manner are the elements of Michelangelo's style.* By 
these principles he selected or rejected the objects of imita- 
tion. As painter, as sculptor, as architect, he attempted, 
and above any other man succeeded, to unite magnificence 
of plan and endless variety of subordinate parts with the 
utmost simplicity and breadth. His line is uniformly grand : 
character and beauty were admitted only as far as they 
could be made subservient to grandeur. The child, the fe- 
male, meanness, deformity, were by him indiscriminately 
stamped with grandeur. A beggar rose from his hand the 
patriarch of poverty ; the hump of his dwarf is impressed 
with dignity ; his women are moulds of generation ; his in- 
fants teem with the man ; his men are a race of giants. 
This is the " terribil via" hinted at by Agostino Carracci, 
though perhaps as little understood by the Bolognese as by 
the blindest of his Tuscan adorers, with Vasari at their 
head. To give the appearance of perfect ease to the most 
perplexing difficulty was the exclusive power of Michel- 
angelo. He is the inventor of epic painting, in that sublime 
circle of the Sistine Chapel which exhibits the origin, the 
progress, and the final dispensations of theocracy. He has 
personified motion in the groups of the cartoon of Pisa ; em- 
bodied sentiment on the monuments of San Lorenzo, un- 
ravelled the features of meditation in the Prophets and Si- 
byls of the Sistine Chapel; and in the Last Judgment, with 
every attitude that varies the human body, traced the master- 
trait of every passion that sways the human heart. Though 
as sculptor, he expressed the character of flesh more per- 
fectly than all who went before or came after him, yet he 
never submitted to copy an individual ; J ulio the second 
only excepted, and in him he represented the reigning pas- 
sion rather than the man.| In painting he contented him- 

* Michelangelo Buonarroti, born at Catel-Caprese in 1474, died at 
Rome 1564, aged 90. [He died Feb. 17. 1564, and as he lived 88 years, 
11 months and 15 days, he was born March 6. 1475. — W.] 

f Like Silanion — " Apollodorum fecit, fictorem et ipsum, sed inter 
cunctos diligentissimum artis et inimicum sui judicem, crebro perfecta 




self with a negative colour, and as the painter of mankind, 
rejected all meretricious ornament.* The fabric of St. Peter, 
scattered into infinity of jarring parts by Bramante and 
his successors, he concentrated ; suspended the cupola, and 
to the most complex gave the air of the most simple of edi- 
fices. Such, take him all in all, was Michelangelo, the salt 
of art : sometimes he no doubt had his moments of dere- 
liction, deviated into manner, or perplexed the grandeur of 
his forms with futile and ostentatious anatomy : both met 
with armies of copyists ; and it has been his fate to have been 
censured for their folly. 

The inspiration of Michelangelo was followed by the 
milder genius of Raphael f, the father of dramatic painting ; 

signa frangentem, dum satiare cupiditatem nequit artis, et ideo insanum 
cognominatum. Hoc in eo expressit, nec hominem ex eere fecit sed Ira- 
cundiam." Plin. 1. xxxiv. 7. 

* When Michelangelo pronounced oil-painting to be Arte da donna e 
da huomini agiati e infingardi, a' maxim to which the fierce Venetian 
manner has given an air of paradox, he spoke relatively to fresco : it was 
a lash on the short-sighted insolence of Sebastian del Piombo, who 
wanted to persuade Paul III. to have the Last Judgment painted in oil. 
That he had a sense for the beauties of oil-colour, its glow, its juice, its 
richness, its pulp, the praises which he lavished on Titian, whom he 
called the only painter, and his patronage of Fra Sebastiano himself, evi- 
dently prove. When young, Michelangelo attempted oil-painting with 
success; the picture painted for Angelo Doni is an instance, and pro- 
bably the only entire work of the kind that remains. 1 The Lazarus, in 
the picture destined for the cathedral at Narbonne, rejects the claim of 
every other hand. The Leda, the cartoon of which, formerly in the palace 
of the Vecchietti at Florence, is now in the possession of W. Lock, Esq., 
was painted in distemper (a tempera) ; all small or large oil-pictures 
shown as his, are copies from his designs or cartoons, by Marcello 
Venusti,Giacopo da Pontormo, Battista Franco, and Sebastian of Venice. 

f Raffaello Sanzio, of Urbino, died at Rome 1520, at the age of 37. — 
[He was born April 6. 1483, and died on Good Friday, April 6. 1520. 
Vasari, when he stated that Raphael was born and died on Good-Fridav, 
forgot that Good Friday was a movable feast. — W.] 

1 This work is in distemper ; there is no known work in oil colours by 
the hand of Michelangelo. (Lanzi, Storia Pittorica, &c.) The remark 
about oil-painting was a mere burst of anger against Sebastiano del 
Piombo, who had earned his reputation by oil-painting. This is evident 
both from the occasion, and from the complete sentence, of which Fuseli 
has quoted only a part: — " to paint in oil is an art fit only for women, 
and easy and lazy persons like Fra Sebastiano," — il colorire a olio era 
arte da donna, e da persone agiate ed infingarde, come Fra Bastiano. — 
Vasari, Vita di Sebastiano. — W. 



[lect. II. 

the painter of humanity ; less elevated, less vigorous, but 
more insinuating, more pressing on our hearts, the warm 
master of our sympathies. What effect of human connection, 
what feature of the mincl, from the gentlest emotion to the 
most fervid burst of passion, has been left unobserved, has 
not received a characteristic stamp from that examiner of 
man ? Michelangelo came to nature, nature came to Raphael 
— he transmitted her features like a lucid glass, unstained, 
unmodified. We stand with awe before Michelangelo, and 
tremble at the height to which he elevates us — we embrace 
Raphael, and follow him wherever he leads us. Energy, 
with propriety of character and modest grace, poise his line 
and determine his correctness. Perfect human beauty he 
has not represented ; no face of Raphael's is perfectly beau- 
tiful ; no figure of his, in the abstract, possesses the propor- 
tions that could raise it to a standard of imitation : form to 
him was only a vehicle of character or pathos, and to those 
he adapted it in a mode and with a truth which leaves all 
attempts at emendation hopeless. His invention connects 
the utmost stretch of possibility with the most plausible de- 
gree of probability, in a manner that equally surprises our 
fancy, persuades our judgment, and affects our heart. His 
composition always hastens to the most necessary point as 
its centre, and from that disseminates, to that leads back as 
rays, all secondary ones. Group, form, and contrast are 
subordinate to the event, and common-place ever excluded. 
His expression, in strict unison with and decided by cha- 
racter, whether calm, animated, agitated, convulsed, or ab- 
sorbed by the inspiring passion, unmixed and pure, never 
contradicts its cause, equally remote from tameness and 
grimace : the moment of his choice never suffers the action 
to stagnate or to expire ; it is the moment of transition, the 
crisis big with the past and pregnant with the future. — If, 
separately taken, the line of Raphael has been excelled in 
correctness, elegance, and energy; his colour far surpassed 
in tone, and truth, and harmony ; his masses in roundness, 
and his chiaroscuro in effect — considered as instruments of 
pathos, they have never been equalled ; and in composition, 
invention, expression, and the power of telling a story, he 
has never been approached. 

Whilst the superior principles of the art were receiving 




the homage of Tuscany and Home, the inferior but more 
alluring charm of colour began to spread its fascination at 
Venice, from the pallet of Giorgione da Castel Franco *, and 
irresistibly entranced every eye that approached the magic 
of Titiano Vecelli of Cador.f To no colourist before or 
after him, did nature unveil herself with that dignified fa- 
miliarity in which she appeared to Titian. His organ, uni- 
versal and equally fit for all her exhibitions, rendered her 
simplest to her most compound appearances with equal pu- 
rity and truth. He penetrated the essence and the general 
principle of the substances before him, and on these esta- 
blished his theory of colour. He invented that breadth of 
local tint which no imitation has attained, and first expressed 
the negative nature of shade: his are the charms of glazing, 
and the mystery of reflexes, by which he detached, rounded, 
connected, or enriched his objects. His harmony is less 
indebted to the force of light and shade, or the artifices of 
contrast, than to a due balance of colour, equally remote 
from monotony and spots. His backgrounds seem to be 
dictated by nature. Landscape, whether it be considered as 
the transcript of a spot, or the rich combination of congenial 
objects, or as the scene of a phenomenon, dates its origin 
from him : he is the father of portrait-painting, of resem- 
blance with form, character with dignity, and costume with 

Another charm was yet wanting to complete the round of 
art — harmony : it appeared with Antonio Lieti J, called 
Correggio, whose works it attended like an enchanted spirit. 

* Giorgio Barbnrelli, from his size and beauty called Giorgione, was 
born at Castel Franco, in the territory of Venice, 1478, and died at 
Venice, 1511. [He was born rather in the neighbourhood of Castel 
Franco, in 1477 W.] 

f Titiano Vecelli, or, as the Venetians call him, Tizian, born at Cador, 
in the Friulese, died at Venice, 1576, aged 99. 

J The birth and life of Antonio Allegri, or, as he called himself, Lieti, 
surnamed Correggio, is more involved in obscurity than the life of Apelles. 
Whether he was born in 1493 or 1494 is not ascertained ; the time of 
his death in 1534 [March 5.] is more certain. The best account of him 
has undoubtedly been given by A. R. Mengs in his Memorie concementi 
la vita e h opere di Antonio Allegri denominato il Correggio. Vol. ii. of 
his works, published by the Spaniard D. G. Niccola d'Azara. [See on 
Correggio — Pungileoni, Memorie Istoriche di Antonio Allegri detto il 
Correggio. Parma, 1817-21.— W.] 

C C 



[lect. m 

The harmony and the grace of Correggio are proverbial : 
the medium which by breadth of gradation unites two op- 
posite principles, the coalition of light and darkness by im- 
perceptible transition, are the element of his style. — This' 
inspires his figures with grace, to this their grace is subor- 
dinate : the most appropriate, the most elegant attitudes 
were adopted, rejected, perhaps sacrificed to the most awk- 
ward ones, incompliance with this imperious principle: parts 
vanished, were absorbed, or emerged in obedience to it. 
This unison of a whole predominates over all that remains 
of him, from the vastness of his cupolas to the smallest of 
his oil-pictures. — The harmony of Correggio, though as- 
sisted by exquisite hues, was entirely independent of colour : 
his great organ was chiaroscuro in its most extensive sense : 
compared with the expanse in which he floats, the effects of 
Leonardo da Vinci are little more than the dying ray of 
evening, and the concentrated flash of Giorgione discordant 
abruptness. The bland central light of a globe, impercep- 
tibly gliding through lucid demitints into rich reflected 
shades, composes the spell of Correggio, and affects us with 
the soft emotions of a delicious dream. 

Such was the ingenuity that prepared, and such the genius 
that raised to its height the fabric of modern art. Before 
we proceed to the next epoch, let us make an observation. 

Form not your judgment of an artist from the exceptions 
which his conduct may furnish, from the exertions of acci- 
dental vigour, some deviations into other walks, or some 
unpremeditated flights of fancy, but from the predominant 
rule of his system, the general principle of his works. The 
line and style of Titian's design sometimes expand them- 
selves like those of Michelangelo. His Abraham prevented 
from sacrificing Isaac ; his David adoring over the giant- 
trunk of Goliath ; the Friar escaping from the murderer o£ 
his companion in the forest, equal in loftiness of conception 
and style of design, their mighty tone of colour and daring, 
execution : the heads and groups of Raphael's frescoes and 
portraits sometimes glow and palpitate with the tints of Ti- 
tian, or coalesce in masses of harmony, and undulate with 
graces superior to those of Correggio ; who in his turn once 
reached the highest summit of invention, when he embodied 
silence and personified the mysteries of love in the voluptuous 
group of Jupiter and Io ; and again exceeded all competition 




of expression in the divine features of his Ecce-IIomo.* 
But these sudden irradiations, these flashes of power, are 
only exceptions from their wonted principles; pathos and 
character own Raphael for their master, colour remains the 
domain of Titian, and harmony the sovereign mistress of 

The resemblance which marked the two first periods of 
ancient and modern art vanishes altogether as we, extend 
our view to the consideration of the third, or that of refine- 
ment, and the origin of schools. The pre-eminence of an- 
cient art, as we have observed, was less the result of superior 
powers than of simplicity of aim and uniformity of pursuit. 
The Helladic and the Ionian schools appear to have con- 
curred in directing their instruction to the grand principles 
of form and expression : this was the stamen which they 
drew out into one immense connected web. The talents 
that succeeded genius applied and directed their industry 
and polish to decorate the established system, the refinements 
of taste, grace, sentiment, colour, grandeur, and expression. 
The Tuscan, the Roman, the Venetian, and the Lombard 
schools, whether from incapacity, want of education, of 
adequate or dignified encouragement, meanness of concep- 
tion, or all these together, separated, and in a short time 
substituted the medium for the end. Michelangelo lived to 
see the electric shock which his design and style had given 
to art, propagated by the Tuscan and Venetian schools, as 
the ostentatious vehicle of puny conceits and emblematic 
quibbles, or the palliative of empty pomp and degraded 
luxuriance of colour. He had been copied, but was not 
imitated by Andrea Vannucchi, surnamed Del Sarto, who 
in his series of pictures on the life of John the Baptist, in 
preference adopted the meagre style of Albert Diirer. j The 

* Now in the National Gallery, but formerly in the Colonna palace at 
Rome. This picture has much suffered, especially the lower half of it. 
Mengs is doubtless correct in pronouncing it one of Correggio's early 
works ; it is deficient in those peculiar beauties which characterise Cor- 
reggio's style. — W. 

f Andrea, called Del Sarto, from the occupation of his father who was 
a tailor, was born at Florence in 1488, and died in that city of the 
plague, in 1530. The imitation of Albert Diirer, in the frescoes (in 
chiaroscuro) of the Scalzo, is limited to the adoption of a few figures 



[lect* IT. 

artist who appears to have penetrated deepest to his mind 
was Pelegrino Tibaldi, of Bologna*; celebrated as the painter 
of the frescoes in the academic institute of that city, and as 
the architect of the Escurial under Philip II. f The compo- 
sitions, groups, and single figures of the institute exhibit a 
singular mixture of extraordinary vigour and puerile imbe- 
cility of conception, of character and caricature, of style and 
manner. Polypheme groping at the mouth of his cave for 
Ulysses, and JEolus granting him favourable winds, are 
striking instances of both : than the Cyclops, Michelangelo 
himself never conceived a form of savage energy, with at- 
titude and limbs more in unison ; whilst the god of winds 
is degraded to a scanty and ludicrous semblance of Ther- 
sites, and Ulysses with his companions travestied by the 
semi-barbarous look and costume of the age of Constantine 
or Attila ; the manner of Michelangelo is the style of Pele- 
grino Tibaldi ; from him Golzius, Hemskerk, and Spranger 
borrowed the compendium of the Tuscan's peculiarities. 
With this mighty talent, however, Michelangelo seems not 
to have been acquainted, but by that unaccountable weak- 
ness incident to the greatest powers, and the severe remem- 
brancer of their vanity, he became the superintendant and 
assistant tutor of the Venetian SebastianoJ, and of Daniel 
Eicciarelli, of Volterra§ ; the first of whom, with an exqui- 
site eye for individual, had no sense for ideal colour, whilst 
the other rendered great diligence and much anatomical 
erudition, useless by meagerness of line and sterility of 
ideas : how far Michelangelo succeeded in initiating either 
in his principles, the far-famed pictures of the resuscitation 

from s Diirer's prints, which then attracted notice in Italy; but, says 
Vasari, Andrea drew them in his own style. Andrea was called Andrea 
senza Errori — Andrew without faults ; a title acquired by his celebrated 
frescoes in the Annunciata. See, on this painter, Biadi, Notizie cT Andrea 
del Sarin, §•& Florence, 1830. — W. 

* Pelegrino Tibaldi died at Milan in 1592, aged 70. [He was born 
in 1527, and died about 1600. — W.] 

\ The Escurial was built by Bautista de Toledo, and Juan de Har- 
rera, 1563-84, and was completed two years before the visit of Tibaldi 
to Spain. Cean Bermudez, Diccionnrio